Vote 2012: U.S. Senate Debate
Arizona Horizon (PBS) hosts the first debate for the candidates seeking the U.S. Senate seat of retiring U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. The hour long debate, starting at 5pm, includes the three candidates running for Senate: Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, Democrat Dr. Rich Carmona, and Libertarian Marc Victor.
The two rivals also traded barbs over earmarks -- Flake's signature issue -- and bringing home federal dollars to Arizona, as well as other topics.
The Arizona race has become one of the most closely watched in the nation and could help decide which party controls the Senate.Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general from Tucson running as a Democrat, and Flake, a six-term Republican congressman from Mesa, sparred twice Wednesday: in the afternoon before The Arizona Republic's editorial board and in the evening during an hourlong live debate televised on the Channel 8 (KAET) "Arizona Horizon" program. Libertarian rival Marc Victor joined Carmona and Flake for the KAET show.
In both appearances, Carmona repeatedly pushed back hard against the Republican image of him as a rubber stamp for Obama's Democratic agenda, refusing to defend the Obama administration or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Obama and Reid are among the senior Democrats who called Carmona last year to encourage him to run for the retiring three-term GOP Sen. Jon Kyl's seat.
Carmona told both The Republic editorial board and KAET viewers that he would not have voted for the health-care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, had he been in the Senate in 2010.
"In its current configuration -- no," Carmona said during the Republic session. "If I was there, and I've said it repeatedly, I would have told the president: 'It's 25,000 pages of complex stuff. It's confusing. People are not going to understand it. We should work with the Republicans, roll it out incrementally over a several-year period and let the people get educated about it so that they're not scared.' "
Flake, who opposed the health-care law, appeared caught off-guard by Carmona's announcement that he would not have voted for the bill.
"I have to say here: I'm floored," Flake said. "This is a new position."
The two joint appearances gave voters their first real glimpses into the Carmona-vs.-Flake rivalry for the seat Kyl is vacating.
Dueling polls released Wednesday confirm the race is tight. A poll of 602 likely voters conducted Sunday through Tuesday for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee indicated that Carmona is leading Flake 47 percent to 43 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Flake's campaign subsequently released its own internal poll of 453 likely voters, also conducted Sunday through Tuesday, that had Flake with a 49 percent to 43 percent lead, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
On Wednesday night, Carmona was planning to appear at a get-out-the-vote rally in Tempe headlined by former President Bill Clinton.