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Carmona A Politico Rambo

In Battle With Flake

Richard Carmona
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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona talks with fellow veteran David Lucier Saturday in Tempe.
Former U.S. Surgeon General’s ‘Covert’ Campaign Gained Him An Early Foothold Into What Is Now A Highly Competitive Race For U.S. Senate

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 8, 2012 — Richard Carmona is the midst of accomplishing what has been considered an impossible feat for nearly two decades: A democrat winning a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.

Recent polling has proven the race to be highly competitive. Public Policy Polling, a democratic outfit, reported this week that he is leading for the first time in the race, by two percentage points. Longtime republican wonk Chuck Coughlin’s Highground poll in the last week of September, though, showed Flake a few percentage points ahead, but the conclusion is clear.

Carmona is palpably close to winning.

How is Carmona pushing Rep. Jeff Flake, the handpicked successor to Sen. Jon Kyl, to the brink of defeat in his first electoral contest?

Speaking at a Tempe Town Hall Saturday at an American Legion Post, Carmona — a former special forces medic — said the beauty of his campaign is that he was able to run a “covert” operation until Flake’s protracted battle with former friend Wil Cardon was concluded.

“My team wanted to be aggressive. They said, ‘Let’s get out there, let’s show them, let’s get on T.V.” Carmona said. “I said, ‘whoa,’ this is covert operations. We’ll take this like we do in special forces. What we want to do is stay below the radar for as long as we can and quietly do psy ops. Quietly go into all of these communities and take away everything he thinks is his.”

But his campaign is far from covert right now. And, his ‘overt’ political tactics since September has been somewhat of a masterstroke.

Carmona is hitting Flake hard on veterans issues — something his sparkling military record in combat as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam allows him to wield as an extremely effective strategy. He has consequently been able to change a fair number of republican and independent votes and swing the electorate.

“I am a Goldwater republican. In my opinion, Goldwater would not be aligned with today’s republicans,” said Frank from Phoenix Saturday. “Someone has to get in there who can create compromise to get us off the edge of the cliff.”

He has been able to do much of the same with the law enforcement community thanks to his record as the surgeon for the Pima County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. Carmona even shot and killed a Tucson motorist in 1999 after pulling over to assist a traffic accident he was not involved in. He clearly has earned the respect he has been given in this regard among sworn officers.

Carmona’s sterling military and law enforcement record are a big reason he is able to stay on the precipice of an upset.

Also, getting the Goldwater family’s endorsement in September didn’t hurt, either.

Nor has the infusion of PAC cash, an affirmation that this race has vaulted into the national spotlight.

And, next he might get the biggest bump of all: an appearance in Tempe Oct. 10 by President Clinton, who sees this race — and the state — as winnable for democrats.

And why shouldn’t he? Washington was abuzz throughout last fall as Carmona was being courted by the Washington establishment. Typically a strong candidate has more than one thing going for him. Carmona has three: military, law enforcement and medicine. He even received a phone call from President Obama who also encouraged him to run. That phone call, perhaps not coincidentally, has turned out to become the focal point of his challenger’s attacks.

Ever since Flake completed his defeat of Cardon, he has ‘salaciously’ labeled Carmona as “the handpicked candidate of President Obama.”

Carmona dismisses Flake’s rhetoric, reiterating Saturday that he has only talked to President Obama two times. And, the facts bear that out, as much as speculation can.

It was widely reported in November 2011 that Carmona decided to run for the Senate the day after he was appointed to lead the investigation into the body parts burning scandal by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It was an embarrassment to Panetta, to say the least, when Carmona resigned the next day to run for public office.

Perhaps making the decision whether to be the first former U.S. Surgeon General to run for elective office was as straightforward as he claimed Saturday in Tempe.

“As I thought about it some more I thought maybe I did have something to add,” he said. “I thought if my Mom and grandmother were still alive what would they say, they would tell me to serve. They would tell me in one generation you went from high school dropout to Surgeon General of the United States. You should really get out here and do something.”

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