Six-term U.S. Representative Jeff Flake, a Republican, defeated Democrat Richard Carmona to win an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.
The race for the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican, grew tight in the final weeks of the campaign. Carmona, a decorated Special Forces veteran and U.S. surgeon general in President George W. Bush’s administration, leveraged his biography and bipartisan credentials to cast himself as an independent thinker.
Carmona, 63, said during his campaign that both parties often got it wrong on health care and other issues, while criticizing Flake’s record.
Flake, who entered the race as the front-runner, campaigned on the issue of fiscal discipline. He sought to link Carmona to President Barack Obama, who encouraged Carmona to run, and said he would be a “rubber stamp” for Democratic leaders. Flake, 49, also questioned Carmona’s temperament, with ads featuring a former female boss who said Carmona had problems with his temper and with women.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Carmona infuriated Republicans with a television ad featuring clips of Kyl and U.S. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, praising Carmona during his 2002 confirmation hearings for the surgeon general post. Kyl and McCain endorsed Flake and appeared in a subsequent commercial in which they said Carmona’s ad showed a lack of integrity.
Outside groups spent millions of dollars in the final weeks of the campaign as polls showed the candidates in a close race. Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth were among the groups supporting Flake, while Carmona benefited from spending by the environmental group League of Conservation Voters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Flake had the financial advantage: he raised about $1.2 million more than Carmona and had more outside spending on his behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.