Arizona’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona is positioning himself as a candidate that Arizona has been waiting for, one that will bring back the Barry Goldwater-like politics that are at the core of the state’s identity. Carmona was seen as the underdog in the race, as we reported, but several polls show him ahead and he out-fundraised his Republican opponent in the last quarter.
Politic365 spoke to Carmona Wednesday — less than a week out from the election pitting him against Republican Congressman Jeff Flake. He seemed convinced that he was the candidate not only for Latinos in Arizona, but for moderate Republicans, women and others looking for a return to politics that are less extreme than today’s Tea Party version of Republicanism. There are big differences between the two candidates, Carmona said, and he’s for perpetuating the “infrastructure of opportunity” that allowed a homeless high school dropout like himself to become Surgeon General of the United States.
You can see Arizona’s shift to new-old politics in the “Republicans for Carmona” groups that he says litter the state, he said. These Republicans are not throwing their support behind a Puerto Rican originally from New York because they want liberal politics, he said, rather, they are after something a bit more old school.
“They see me as an alternative because they feel that their party has abandoned them by chasing birther deals, [being] mean spirited on immigration and legislating health care for women,” Carmona said. “I think there is a swing back toward more moderation and rejecting the extremes.”
Specifically, Carmona said the people of Arizona support him because they see something familiar in his politics: Barry Goldwater.
“It’s not so much that [my support comes from] a swing to Democrat or Republican, but just to moderation. We are talking about going back to the days of Barry Goldwater, which is why the Goldwater family stepped out and endorsed me,” he told Politic365.
Carmona ticks off the list of constituencies in Arizona ready for this new-old politics with little effort: retirees who moved to Arizona from other places (this group tends to be largely white and Republican), women, veterans, Latinos, Republicans who are tired of the Tea Party. All of these people, he said, want to move away from partisan politics and towards a solution on jobs, the economy, debt, the state’s deeply troubled education system, etc
“We’ve focused on my values, my attributes, my independence and my track record at a local level, at a state level and at a national level,” he said, giving huge credit to his staffers who he said have taught him a great deal about campaigning.
Carmona dismissed criticism from an attack ad depicting him as being aggressive towards women as desperate politics on Flake’s part, given that he didn’t expect a contentious race for the seat. Carmona also pointed out that he’s been advocating for victims of domestic violence in Arizona for years.
Whether or not Carmona wants to be a Latino candidate or the Latino Barry Goldwater, the fact is that his ethnicity is part of his campaign in Arizona, a state where race has been at the forefront of politics for years. Carmona doesn’t deny that his election would be inspirational (he would be the first Latino senator from Arizona), but he seems himself more as “Rich” — a man who’s done work in Arizona as a doctor, professor, police officer and more for the last 30 years. Latinos in Arizona identify with him because he’s worked with them, not because he speaks the same language, he said.
“It’s more than just an arbitrary tag of being ‘Latino,’” he said. “I think the Latino community sees me as a knowledgeable person they trust.” And, in a week, we’ll find out how much everyone else in Arizona believes the same thing.