For Tom Campbell, the moderate Republican who was thrashed in the California Senate primary last week, it must be tough seeing, his victorious opponent, and , the Republican candidate for governor, anointed as the new political vanguard of Silicon Valley.
This is a prize that by all rights should belong to Mr. Campbell. For more than three decades, the one-time law professor and member of Congress has positioned himself as just the kind of smart, socially liberal and fiscally conservative politician whom high-tech business leaders could love.
When Silicon Valley computer chip makers needed someone in Washington who “got it” in the late 1980s, as they fought for their survival against Japanese imports, Mr. Campbell stood up. More recently, when green-energy entrepreneurs needed credibly pro-business advocates for environmental protection, Mr. Campbell was there.
At a time when theis riding anti- , anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights platforms to victory around the country, Mr. Campbell mostly rejected those themes, which are anathema to the creative class that drives Silicon Valley.
Mr. Campbell certainly convinced his base, beating Ms. Fiorina 49 percent to 32 percent in Santa Clara County, and also outpolling her in neighboring San Mateo County. But statewide, Ms. Fiorina, the formerchief executive, cruised to a lopsided 56 percent to 22 percent victory.
Ms. Fiorina’s success partly reflects the rightward march of the Republican Party, and it partly reflects the longstanding grip of conservative Southern California Republicans on the state party. But it also exposes the ancient split between business-oriented Republicans and the social-issue conservatives who have become the Republican base.
There is little doubt where Silicon Valley is positioned.
The tech and Internet industries are bastions of successful first-generation immigrants; when I asked a few venture capitalists recently about their political concerns, securing more visas for skilled foreign workers was at the top of the list. Illegal migration across the Mexican border is a somewhat different issue, but it does not seem to be a big concern.
When it comes to, it’s a good rule that industries which rely on creative talent have no time for politicking over people’s lifestyles.
On education, environment and infrastructure, Silicon Valley denizens have far more in common with Mr. Campbell. A recent study from the nonpartisan partnership Joint Venture: Silicon Valley pleads for re-investment in education and sustainability, and generally reads like an excerpt from a moderate Republican’s playbook.
AnnaLee Saxenian, an economic geographer and a dean at the, who has long studied the valley, said she was “shocked” to see Ms. Fiorina and Ms. Whitman portrayed as representative of a Silicon Valley worldview.
“People there are much more in the mold of Tom Campbell,” Ms. Saxenian said. “They are concerned about a set of issues that you hardly hear about from Carly and Meg.”
Further, neither Ms. Fiorina nor Ms. Whitman is truly a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Ms. Fiorina climbed the corporate ladder atbefore her tumultuous tenure atop H-P. Ms. Whitman was a Bain & Co. consultant who worked in the toy business before being recruited to run . Management consultants and phone company executives are viewed in the start-up community as anti-entrepreneurs — the people whose arrival signifies, at best, the end of the fun part.
Mr. Campbell is no entrepreneur either. But he is famously intelligent, with a law degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. in economics from the— and raw smarts is one of the few things other than start-up success that commands respect in Silicon Valley.
Ms. Fiorina and Ms. Whitman will move to the center for the general election and portray themselves as can-do chief executives who will bring valley business acumen to Washington and Sacramento, respectively.
Mr. Campbell, who has now lost three Senate races, is most likely done pursuing statewide office. But it’s worth remembering, when Ms. Fiorina and Ms. Whitman tout their Silicon Valley pedigrees, that they are anything but representative of the way most in the valley think.
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June 17, 2010