After 18 years, it's time for a change. Barbara Boxer, the junior U.S. senator from California, has been in office long enough to have built bridges in Washington, forged meaningful first-name alliances outside her primary spheres of influence and advanced some of the needs of the Central Valley. But she hasn't -- not to the degree we would have expected or hoped. After three largely noneventful terms, the time has come to send her packing.

Enter Carly Fiorina, a fiery former corporate CEO with a strong pro-business outlook. With the state and national economy still in the dumps -- yes, even though the recession is "over" -- her passionately held views should help maintain the right balance in the U.S. Senate.

Boxer, elected to the Senate in 1992, is a perfect example of an elected official who seems quite comfortable going through the motions without actually accomplishing much except casting party-line votes in the Senate, flinging partisan barbs and defeating the succession of weak or flawed challengers she's been fortunate enough to draw.

Nothing leaps to mind when we attempt to recall her legislative triumphs. Even as chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, she lost control of important global-warming legislation to a party colleague out of an inability to smooth over partisan divisions.

Similarly, her committee's efforts to create a widely anticipated transportation bill sits broken down on the side of the freeway.

It's telling that Boxer's campaign against Fiorina has been negative from the start. From an incumbent, it's a sure sign that there's nothing strong enough to go on in her own legislative history.

Liberal Californians -- and that's a substantial constituency -- have counted on Boxer's vote to support core issues such as abortion rights, a blunt instrument she has used to win past campaigns. She's wielding it again, accusing Fiorina of a willingness to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

But rather than trumpeting her own legislative record, Boxer has played the wealth card often in an attempt to stir up contempt for her multimillionaire opponent. And she has tried to characterize Fiorina's tenure as the head of Hewlett-Packard as that of failure. She would have been better off augmenting her arguments with more of her own policy achievements.

Fiorina's style makes her hard to ignore. She's confident, engaging and straightforward -- strong selling points for that vast middle of the electorate, the independent voter. She inspires strong feelings among more polarized voters on topics from gun rights to immigration to education. We can't say we agree with every position she has taken, but it's clear she speaks for many -- especially those in the Central Valley.

Californians need a senator who can provide forceful leadership without being a lightning rod for hyperpartisanship. Fiorina matches that job description best. We recommend her for the U.S. Senate.