Something exciting is happening in Arizona. Unfortunately known nationally for being the nation’s capital of racial intolerance (Sheriff Arpaio, show me your papers legislation SB 1070, etc., etc), Arizona’s population has within it the seeds of a dramatic political transformation, and those seeds are starting to grow in the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona. Dr. Richard Carmona’s ascendance in the polls is proof positive that a new multi-racial electoral coalition is possible that can turn Arizona from red to blue for decades to come.
Dr. Carmona has an impressive life story and a long history of working to improve the lives of poor people. Born into poverty, Dr. Carmona dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming a combat-decorated, Vietnam veteran. He has worked as a paramedic, nurse, and eventually worked his way through school to obtain his medical degree and become a distinguished surgeon. A proud public servant, Dr. Carmona agreed to serve as U.S. Surgeon General under George Bush, and he answered President Obama’s suggestion to run for U.S. Senate.
Political pundits have long written off Arizona as a solidly conservative state, and many scoffed at the Obama campaign’s suggestion that they might contest Arizona this year as a result of the increases in the Latino population (they ultimately decided not to go all-in yet). The census numbers, however, tell an undeniable story of a state undergoing a demographic revolution (and that, many would argue, is the basis of the racist backlash we’ve seen the past few years there).
In the 2008 Presidential election in Arizona, John McCain (home-state Senator) beat Obama by 195,404 votes. Arizona has 360,000 eligible, non-voting people of color. That is why PAC+ has chosen Arizona as one of its six priority states for 2012, and we were always excited to back Dr. Carmona. And now, it looks like our thesis is being born out, and Dr. Carmona is poised for victory. The most recent polls show him surging into the lead, and the national parties are now directing hundreds of thousands to that race.
We have a chance in Arizona to elect a decent and caring advocate for poor people to the United States Senate, increase the representation of people of color in the Senate, and send a strong signal to the country that the demographic revolution offers great hope and promise for changing the political balance of power for decades to come.