U.S. Senate Could See Its First Puerto Rican Member


This November could witness a historic occasion: the first Puerto Rican elected to the U.S. Senate. What’s even more unusual is the candidate is not from a traditional Puerto Rican stronghold like New York.
The candidate is former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona. He’s the Democratic nominee in Arizona running against Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake for the open seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl.
Politico.com reports, “Recent polls have shown Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, within striking distance of Flake, a six-term congressman. A poll commissioned by Arizona GOP consulting firm HighGround had Flake edging Carmona 43 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent undecided.” A race that is within three percentage points is considered a dead heat because of the statistical margin of error.
“I think the dynamics of this race have changed,” Russ Walker, FreedomWorks for America’s executive director, who is headed to the Grand Canyon State next week, told Politico. “We want to make sure we don’t forget about Arizona. … It’s safe to say this is a close race.” The group was an early financial backer of Cardona’s opponent.
According to People’s World.com, Arizona’s labor movement has moved into high gear to support Carmona. The AFL-CIO has launched its labor-to-labor campaign to talk to every union household in the state.
There’s one unusual twist to the race. Carmona, an independent until last year, served as Surgeon General in the George W. Bush administration. He was actively recruited to run as a Republican and may have if not for schism with the party when Cardona testified before Congress that the Bush administration had instructed him to put political considerations over scientific ones. He said, according to a N. Y. Times article,  that included assistant secretaries of health and human services as well as top political appointees outside the department of health.
Dr. Carmona served as surgeon general for one four-year term, from 2002 to 2006, but was not asked to serve a second. Before being nominated, he was in the Army Special Forces, earned two purple hearts in the Vietnam War and was a trauma surgeon and leader of the Pima County, Ariz., SWAT team. He received a bachelor’s degree, in biology and chemistry, in 1976 and his M.D. in 1979, both from the University of California, San Francisco.
Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told the Associated Press that the Republican emphasis on dismissing its past ties to Carmona “shows their level of panic” in the Senate race.
Image (c) Cardona campaign