Jeff Flake (R) won over Richard Carmona (D) by 6 percentage points tonight, with Flake carrying 51 percent of the vote, according to CNN. The Arizona race was closely watched, since the two candidates had been neck-and-neck at the polls up to Election Day. The Arizona Central reported this as the tightest Arizona Senate race since 1980. Yesterday, polls showed Flake barely leading on Carmona, in a close 51 to 46 percent.
Although the state has tended to lean Republican, a growing demographic of Latinos (16 percent of the voting population in 2008, up from 14 percent in 2004), made a Democratic candidate more likely than ever this year.
In total, an estimated $23 million were spent on television and radio ads in this campaign. John McCain and Jon Kyl, the Republican Senator that Flake will now replace, both had spots in ads supporting Flake, in attempts to motivate voters to support the Republican cause. Interestingly, Carmona featured reels of both McCain and Kyl praising him during his confirmation as Surgeon General, in a campaign ad that obviously prompted retort from Flake.
The race was particularly prickly in the last couple months of campaigning, with Carmona sharply accusing Flake of being a Republican mouthpiece and Flake attacked Carmona’s personality and questioned his character.
Carmona, who previously served as US Surgeon General under the George H. W. Bush administration, announced he would run as a Democrat in November of last year. Previously an independent, President Obama and other prominent Democrats encouraged Carmona to run for the seat.
The Washington Post had pinned Carmona as the perfect Democratic ticket for Arizona. His record as an independent allows him to more effectively claim to walk the “bipartisan” tightrope. He served as a medic in Vietnam and steadfastly supports protections and benefits for veterans. Like his challenger, his main focus during the campaign was the economy, although the two differ on ways to manage it.
Jeff Flake has represented Arizona’s 6th District since 2011 and serves on the House Committee of Appropriations. He previously served as the Executive Director for the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. Flake focuses on limiting the role of government for the benefit of the private sector. He also seeks to reform Medicare, improve border security, reduce the deficit, and has been consistently and firmly pro-life. Mitt Romney had backed Flake in a TV ad spot, saying, “He’ll get America back on track.”