They’re not pulling any punches in the tight Arizona Senate race, where the attacks are getting increasingly personal.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has accused six-term Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of “picking on veterans.” And Flake’s supporters are running ads that suggest Carmona has problems controlling his anger and dealing with women.
The Flake campaign’s ad features Cristina Beato, Carmona’s former supervisor, saying she “feared” for her children and her own safety when Carmona once showed up at her home in the middle of the night and started banging angrily on the door.
The attacks have gotten increasingly vicious as the race tightened. Throughout the summer, Flake appeared ahead, but the two most recent polls have shown Carmona inching in front.
|Jeff Flake (AP Photo)
“Carmona is not who he seems. He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women. I have testified to this under oath to Congress,” Beato, a former acting assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, says in the ad. “Richard Carmona should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate.”
Carmona, 62, has dismissed Beato’s claims as coming from a “disgruntled” worker. His backers call the ad unethical.
But Flake, 49, told The Arizona Republic that Beato’s allegations are fair game.
“He’s running on his bio, so his bio should be looked at and particularly where there are issues that are relevant to him serving in the U.S. Senate, and temperament issues certainly are,” Flake said.
And the Republican is smarting from Carmona’s attacks on him. In an Oct. 18 debate, Carmona accused Flake of “picking on veterans.” Ads by Carmona’s campaign and the liberal outside groups VoteVets.org and Majority PAC claim Flake has ignored the plight of veterans. The ads use the tagline, “Congressman Jeff Flake helps himself. Not us.”
“When they start going after me on veterans, showing disabled veterans and implying that I would not help them, that’s personal to me,” Flake told the Republic.
Flake, a fiscal conservative and member of the House Appropriations Committee, trumpets that he helped lead the way for the ban on congressional earmarks.
A fifth-generation Arizonan, he grew up on a ranch in the town of Snowflake. Before coming to Congress in 1991, he served as the executive director for the Goldwater Institute, which studies public policy with an emphasis on privatization.
|Richard Carmona (AP Photo)
Carmona has an up-by-your-bootstraps bio. Born in New York to a Puerto Rican family, he dropped out of high school at 16. He served in Vietnam in the Army and pursued his education, becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree and eventually becoming a medical doctor.
His varied career also includes a long stint as a cop. Carmona spent more than 25 years with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, as a deputy sheriff, detective, department surgeon and SWAT team leader.
Carmona served as President George W. Bush’s Surgeon General from August 2002 to July 2006. After leaving office, he publicly criticized the administration, saying it was suppressing medical research out of political and ideological concerns.
The congressman has the advantage in the money race. So far, Flake has raised $5.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Carmona, an independent before he became a Democrat, has raised $2.9 million.
Arizona is a red state and its 10 electoral votes went to its Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. However the race is now so close that RealClearPolitics calls it a "toss-up."
Flake and Carmona are competing for the seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.
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