Republican Congressman Jeff Flake has defeated former Surgeon General Richard Carmona to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
A win for Carmona would have made him the first Latino to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate. It would have also made him the first Democratic senator to be elected in Arizona in more than 20 years.
With more than half of the precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Flake led Carmona by about 5 percent.
“Arizona is changing”
Speaking to hundreds of people who packed the Marriott University Park Hotel in Tucson to view the results, Carmona said, “We didn’t win tonight, but when you look at the results it’s clear that Arizona is moving toward moderation.”
“We showed everyone tonight that Arizona is changing,” he added.
Carmona thanked his staff for the work they put into his campaign and finished with a message to young people: “The greatest calling in life is to serve others.”
Carmona’s lengthy resume and diverse background appealed to a broad group of voters. He was born and raised in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood to Puerto Rican parents who had drug and alcohol problems. After dropping out of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He went on to become a decorated military veteran, a trained surgeon, a medical professor and a deputy sheriff.
On Monday, a day before the election, an enthusiastic Carmona told VOXXI that a win for him would “send a signal to the rest of the state that it’s not going to be business as usual.”
“We want to change the way our state works and how the nation sees our state,” he said on Monday. “We’re looking for more moderate, reasonable people to represent us and to help us solve our problems instead of the intense extreme politics which is hurtful and non-humanitarian in its approach.”
For Florencio Zaragoza, a 64-year-old Latino who attended the election results in Tucson, a victory for Carmona would’ve been significant. Zaragoza told VOXXI, “Having Carmona win would’ve given us a voice in Congress where we have very little representation.”
Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Institute’s Latino Public Policy Center, said the close bids for U.S. Senate and for Maricopa County Sheriff are good indicators that Arizona “is becoming less and less Republican.”
“People are starting to look at individuals as candidates and judging them on the issues,” he said. “They are no longer only voting on a straight Republican Party ticket or a Democratic Party ticket.”