The impending retirement of Republican Sen. Jon Kyl created a vacuum in Arizona, and into that vacuum came Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, who represents the state's 6th District, and Richard Carmona, former surgeon general of the United States. Carmona, the Democratic candidate, was named to the surgeon general job by President George W. Bush, but has since lambasted the Bush White House for its ideological approach to science.
Flake is running for the seat somewhat ironically -- he is one of a growing number of Tea Party-inflected Republicans who have come out against the direct election of U.S. senators, preferring that they be appointed by the state legislature.
Arizona is typically presumed to be a deep red state, but the changing nature of its demographics, especially the increasing Hispanic population that's increasingly victimized by Arizona's current flair for xenophobic policy-making, has made the state look riper and riper for a Democratic Party incursion. In the vanguard of that, Carmona has kept the race close. But according to Politico, he has problems of his own:
Flake's attack ads have raised questions about Carmona's treatment of women, forcing the former U.S. surgeon general to play defense and address the issue in debates, press releases, news conferences and his own campaign ads.
With three weeks before Election Day, nothing has roiled the race more than Flake's "Never, Ever" ad. The simple 30-second spot, based off a POLITICO story from May, features Carmona's former supervisor, Cristina Beato, looking straight into the camera and recalling the surgeon general pounding on her door in the middle of the night.
"He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women," Beato says in the ad, which has nearly 30,000 YouTube views.
Carmona has denied these charges, but he didn't help himself much during a debate appearance in which he made a misogynistic crack about CNN's Candy Crowley. As Buzzfeed reported:
After a difficult stretch in the debate, moderator Brahm Resnik quipped, "Geez, now I know how Candy Crowley felt."
"You're prettier than her," Carmona responded, eliciting a nervous laugh from the moderator. "I'm not sure how to take that," he then said.
Nevertheless, the Democratic Party fiercely covets this Senate seat, and they are spending big to get it. That support has kept Carmona within striking distance. As of this writing, the HuffPost Pollster model has Carmona trailing Flake 44.5 percent to 48.3 percent.
The Center for Responsive Politics has a list of the key contributors to each campaign.