Former Arizona Democratic Party Chair Don Bivens dropped his U.S. Senate bid this week and urged voters to unite behind the campaign of former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, a Tucson surgeon.
The move means Carmona has a lock on the Democratic nomination for what should turn out to be one of the nation’s most hotly contested Senate seats, with control of the U.S. Senate potentially hanging in the balance.
The retirement of longtime Republican Senator Jon Kyl has thrown the race wide open.
Five-term Congressman Jeff Flake, who this weekend picked up strong support from Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, remains the front runner for the Republican nomination, according to most recent polls.
However, Flake must still defeat several rivals in the August primary, including Mesa businessman Wil Cardon.
Recent polls also give Flake a big edge in a matchup with Carmona, including a Rasmussen Poll showing him preferred by a margin of 47 to 35 percent, with 16 percent undecided and a margin of error of 3 percent.
In withdrawing, Bivens said “while I am confident we would win this primary, the cost and impact on the party I’ve spent my life fighting for could diminish our chance to achieve the ultimate goal: winning in November.”
Carmona, a decorated veteran, former sheriff’s deputy, special forces medic and medical school professor, welcomed Bivens’ announcement.
“Don Bivens is a cornerstone of the Arizona Democratic Party. Don knew how great of an opportunity we have to win this seat and knew that it would take a strong and united effort to do so.”
Flake responded to the announcement by sending out a fresh fund-raising appeal to supporters.
“The announcement that Don Bivens has withdrawn from the Arizona Senate race is proof that the Democrats are more determined than ever to turn Arizona from a red state to blue. Our national debt is at an all-time high and unless we rein in the spending, our nation is going to be in debt for centuries to come.”
Flake, offspring of a pioneering family and former analyst for the Goldwater Institute, hopes he will gain support statewide as a result of his decade-long effort to eliminate “earmark” spending slipped into bills at the request of individual congressmen. Congress eventually banned the practice.
Carmona, a former vice admiral, hopes to turn a vivid resume into a shot at a Senate seat. He served as U.S. Surgeon General for President George Bush, but clashed repeatedly with the administration on everything from his campaign against the health impact of second hand tobacco smoke to political decisions to suppress or rewrite reports on things like climate change.
Arizona voters have returned either Kyl or Sen. John McCain repeatedly for the past 18 years and Flake remains heavily favored to win both the Republican primary and the general election.