by Pamela Powers Hannley
Despite Arizona’s reputation as a stalwartly red state, with a capital R, Democrats are hoping to take back one of the state’s US Senate in November.
Although Democrats have held a percentage of the state’s Congressional seats for years, the Republican Party has controlled both Arizona US Senate seats since 1994, when embattled Senator Dennis Deconcini retired, and Arizona Congressman Jon Kyl won it.
Since early 2012, former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona has been crisscrossing the state, campaigning tirelessly to move that Senate seat to the D column. Over the summer, Carmona climbed steadily in the polls against Kyl’s heir apparent and six-term, conservative Congressman Jeff Flake. A recently released poll shows Independent-turned-Democrat Carmona leading Flake by four percentage points—a statistical dead heat.
This close—and important—Senate race has attracted the attention of heavy hitters from both parties. While the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Works PAC has been pumping money into Flake’s campaign, this week Democrats sent their secret weapon—President Bill Clinton—to Arizona to help Carmona.
Wednesday night, Carmona and Clinton addressed an estimated 5500 Arizonans at an outdoor rally on the Arizona State University (ASU) campus.
More details and a videos after the jump.
Following a rousing musical set by Jimmy Eat World and a glowing introduction by former Phoenix Suns basketball player and current Mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson, Carmona was obviously pumped up as he took the stage.
“My government made an investment in me, and I’m paying it off,” Carmona said, alluding to the GI Bill and the community college open enrollment policy that allowed the Puerto Rican street kid to become surgeon general and perhaps a US Senator. Carmona explained that one of the reasons he’s running for the Senate is that he wants to protect our country’s “infrastructure of opportunity”—veterans’ benefits, Pell Grants, Social Security, Medicare, and other social safety net programs.
Feeding off of the enthusiasm of the overflow crowd that spilled out onto the sidewalks, Clinton continued the themes of working together and investing in the American people.
“Shared prosperity is better than trickledown economics,” Clinton said repeatedly. “A philosophy that says ‘we’re all in this together’—that’s what the GI Bill is all about—is better than ‘you’re on your own.’ The more we expand opportunities for everybody, the more we build a great middle class.
“In every successful country on Earth today, there is the realization that we face a blithering array of complex challenges, and in an environment like that, creative cooperation beats constant conflict every, single time,” he emphasized.
“We’re in this boat together, and we’ve got to row.”
Although Clinton was scheduled to speak only 15 minutes, the folksy elder statesman was on a roll for 30 minutes, as Carmona stood by chuckling at Clinton’s jokes and nodding in agreement. Clinton never mentioned President Barack Obama, but he touched on a multitude of subjects that are important to the President’s campaign—from the DREAM Act and the importance of our diverse society to education, student loans, veterans, healthcare reform, job creation, solar energy, and, of course, the importance of electing Carmona to the Senate.
Earlier in the evening, Carmona and Flake finished his first debate. Flake, who had refused to debate Carmona, more than one time in a Phoenix PBS studio with no audience, recently acquiesced and agreed to three debates in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma. The coming weeks will be crowded with dueling campaign ads, debates, and public appearances.