SOUTH PORTLAND — Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina promised to take on the federal bureaucracy and bring a business-minded sensibility to the White House during a speech Thursday at the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks.

Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, delivered her remarks before a sold-out luncheon hosted by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group. Over 500 people attended, the largest crowd in the center’s 13-year history, organizers said.

Fiorina is one of 17 candidates seeking the Republican nomination in a crowded field that has been disrupted by unconventional front-runner Donald Trump. She said her candidacy was prompted by a federal bureaucracy that is squashing opportunity for Americans.

“I believe we have come to a pivotal point … in our nation’s history when the potential of more than (200 million) Americans, indeed the potential of this great nation, is being crushed by the weight, the power, the cost, the complexity and the ineptitude of the federal government and the political class that cannot or will not do anything about it,” she said.

EARLY DEBATE HELPED CANDIDACY

Fiorina said she would have daily media briefings and hold members of her administration accountable. She also favors zero-based budgeting, a mechanism that builds a budget from scratch every year instead of from past spending.

She is in the middle of the Republican pack, polling seventh, according to an average of four national polls collected by Real Clear Politics. However, Fiorina’s prospects have seemingly improved since she entered the presidential race May 4 as a fringe candidate. She recently won a spot on the main stage of a Sept. 16 debate to be hosted by CNN at the Reagan Library after her campaign criticized the network’s format.

Fiorina debated with second-tier candidates during the Fox News debate Aug. 6, and her ability to punch and counterpunch on the fly earned high marks from national pundits. Also, early polls showing Trump in the lead have signaled that the Republican electorate may be seeking an anti-establishment candidate.

Fiorina, who turns 61 on Sunday, may fit the description. She has not been shy about attacking Trump, sharply criticizing the real estate mogul’s donation to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s former Senate campaign and his donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Fiorina touted her stint at Hewlett-Packard as evidence that she would bring a business ethos to the White House. She told the luncheon crowd about her rise from a secretarial position at a real estate firm to become CEO at Hewlett-Packard. She said that only in America could someone make that jump to a lead role at one of the world’s top technology companies.

“Our founders knew that everyone has gifts … everyone has potential,” she said.

BUSINESS RECORD DERIDED, DEFENDED

Democrats have countered that Fiorina was fired from Hewlett-Packard after the company’s stock price was halved in 2005.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said it was fitting that Fiorina was aligning herself with the Maine Heritage Policy Center, “an extreme right-wing think tank that promotes the same failed policies that hold back Maine’s economic growth.”

“While Fiorina likes to talk up her business experience, her record is nothing to brag about,” Bartlett said. “She’s fired more than 30,000 employees while giving herself huge bonuses and driving the company into the ground. Fiorina can’t run from her own business record on the campaign trail, and hardworking Mainers deserve better than more failed economic policies from the Republican Party.”

Fiorina said she was fired by Hewlett-Packard because she challenged the company’s status quo.

“At the end of that period, yeah, I was fired in a boardroom brawl that played out over two weeks,” she said. “When you call out the status quo, you make enemies. That is why we can find so few people who want to lead.”

She then pivoted to the presidency, saying her willingness to challenge Washington norms and the “political class” will be assets.

“I will make a lot of enemies,” she said. “That’s the price of leadership.”

Fiorina was the keynote speaker at the policy center’s Freedom and Opportunity luncheon. The nonprofit organization is barred from endorsing political candidates.

The invitation-only event also honored Dick Dyke of Windham Weaponry.

 

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