Bob Seger may be from Michigan, but his 1980 hit Against the Wind could certainly apply to the Senate race heating up in Arizona, where Richard Carmona is attempting to become the first Arizona Democrat in the Senate in almost 18 years.
Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General, law enforcement officer, and combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, may be just the Democratic ticket up for the challenge of overthrowing the long-held Republican reign in the state. He has three very important qualities going for him that past Democratic challengers did not: combat experience, bipartisan ties, and Hispanic roots in a state with a growing Latino population.
Carmona thinks one of his greatest assets lies in his willingness and ability to combat partisan extremism within his state and in Congress. "I think it’s our time now to step up and bring some reasonable people to Congress," Carmona said on Tuesday’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. "And I think that’s why I’m going to be successful."
Arizona has become a bedrock for controversial, extremist policies in recent years, such as the anti-illegal immigration measure SB 1070, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has adamantly championed. But despite this hard-line immigration stance, the state has also seen a steadily rising Latino population, and this changing political topography has a good shot at swaying this year’s election.
A huge part of Carmona’s appeal is that he is a moderate Democrat, who could bridge the state’s older, conservative population with the younger, more diverse crowd. Carmona was apppointed Surgeon General by President George W. Bush and urged to run for Senate by President Obama.
The candidate spoke with Chris Matthews about the cause closest to his heart, veterans’ benefits, and his disappointment with the way his opponent Congressman Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has handled those benefits.
"There’s no higher calling than honoring these young men and women who so bravely serve us, and right now I’m real disappointed in how Congressman Flake has handled that," Carmona said. "We owe them and their families for the rest of their lives in trying to make them whole, and give them the benefits that they’ve earned. Because those are not entitlements, which is what Congressman Flake has said. Those are not entitlements, these are earned benefits.”
Whether Carmona stands a chance at becoming the first Arizonan Democrat in the Senate in nearly two decades remains to be seen, but if fundraising figures mean anything, then the fact that he was able to raise $2.2 million in the third quarter is probably an encouraging sign. PPP’s latest numbers, which show Carmona leading Flake 45-43, also show signs of a changing tide in Arizona.
But for now, Carmona is still running against the wind from the right, just like Vice President Biden did 40 years ago when he won his first election in Delaware in 1972, even as the state was going for Nixon. Perhaps if Carmona can pull out a victory, he may also become, as Matthews said, "a man to watch for years and years."