In the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, the polls continue to show a tight race between Democrat Richard Carmona and Republican Jeff Flake.
The surveys from Team Carmona and his allies are showing Carmona with a lead of a few points; the surveys from Team Flake and his allies are showing Flake with a lead of a few points.
But you can tell the race is far closer than Team Flake anticipated, because there's a whole lot of outside money being thrown around. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is now spending big bucks to help the six-term congressman, as is FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth.
On the other side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the League of Conservation Voters are dropping six figures into advertising to boost Carmona.
The League of Conservation Voters ad, which debuted earlier this week, criticizes Flake for voting in Congress to support uranium-mining near the Colorado River, saying it could lead to pollution of the waters of the Colorado and eventually contaminate drinking water.
Flake is continuing his basic message of linking Carmona to Barack Obama, saying that Carmona would be a rubber stamp for the president. But as early voting started last week, Flake unleashed a new, tough ad against Carmona, featuring Cristina Beato, a former acting assistant secretary of health in the George W. Bush administration's Health and Human Services Department.
Beato was Carmona's boss when he was surgeon general in the Bush administration. Carmona and others say that Beato wanted Carmona to produce reports based on a political agenda rather than science, which caused tensions between the two.
In Flake's ad, Beato said that Carmona terrified her by pounding on her door in the middle of the night.
"Carmona is not who he seems," Beato said in the ad. "He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women. ... Richard Carmona should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate."
It was a summary of a similar story that Beato told congressional investigators in 2007.
Carmona denied the allegation last week and again in a debate on Arizona Public Media on Monday, Oct. 15, where he called the charges "completely false."
"There's no merit to those whatsoever," Carmona said, adding that Beato was "a disgruntled employee who had numerous problems over the years. ... This really exemplifies the politics that Congressman Flake is involved in, in the gutter, throwing mud with baseless accusations."
Flake said in the debate that the charges were "certainly relevant," because temperament is important for a U.S. senator.
Carmona has pointed out that his alleged temper problems did not prevent Republican officials from urging him to run for Congress or the Arizona governor's office. Kyl has said that he had encouraged Carmona to run for office as a Republican, although the told The Associated Press that he stopped doing that after Carmona publicly criticized the Bush administration's efforts to politicize the science of public health.
Beato has some credibility issues of her own. She encountered problems with getting confirmed as assistant secretary of health and human services in 2004 after Democrats raised questions about potential résumé-padding.
Carmona responded with an ad featuring Kathleen Brennan, a retired captain with the Pima County Sheriff's Department who commanded a SWAT team that included Carmona.
Brennan said that Carmona was "a joy to work with. He treats everyone with respect. ... Rich was about protecting people and saving lives. So when I see a career politician like Jeff Flake attacking Rich Carmona, who has spent his life helping others, it's despicable."
CD 2: CROSS-PARTY CROSSFIRE
Congressman Ron Barber rolled out a new version of Republicans for Barber last week, with endorsements from Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, former state lawmaker Jennifer Burns and a collection of business leaders, including developer John Wesley Miller, Darryl Dobras and Priscilla Storm of Diamond Ventures.
"Ron is a friend," said Storm in a statement. "Ron's knowledge of Southern Arizona and his extensive relationships make him invaluable as our voice in Congress. I admire Ron for taking a strong, nonpartisan approach to serving his constituents. And while we may be members of different parties, we agree on the economic priorities for Southern Arizona.
Republican Martha McSally, who is challenging Barber, said she would not be coming up with a similar group of Democrats for McSally. Team McSally issued a press release dismissing the whole idea of cross-party support as an example of the "petty politics of division."
"While Ron Barber would like to separate us all into Republican versus Democrat, I choose to look at all of us as Southern Arizonans, in this together for the future of our country," McSally said in a statement. "This kind of divide-and-conquer behavior is typical of Washington politicians and is exactly why Republicans, Democrats, independents and everyone in between are joining our campaign to provide leadership regardless of party, and solutions regardless of credit."
That said, Team McSally was able to swing one Republican who had previously supported Barber: Bob Strain, the former Sierra Vista mayor who backed Barber in the special election against Republican Jesse Kelly, is supporting McSally in this race, as is his wife, Jane Strain.
In other CD 2 news: Barber and McSally released their third-quarter fundraising totals earlier this week.
Barber edged out McSally, raising $788,652 to her $479,998 between July 1 and Sept. 30. Since Aug. 8, when the campaigns filed pre-primary reports, the money race has been closer, with Barber raising $475,876, and McSally raising $432,966.
Barber had the advantage in cash on hand as of Sept. 30: $549,223 to $298,797.
Finally: We haven't seen any new poll numbers in the Barber-McSally race. While the National Republican Congressional Committee was happy to release a recent survey of the Congressional District 1 race that showed Republican Jonathan Paton five percentage-points ahead of Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, there's been no similar release on the numbers for CD 2.
NRCC Deputy Political and Polling Director Brock McCleary said in a conference call with reporters last week that he believed the CD 2 race was "a very close battle," but he declined to release any NRCC polling data to back up his assertion.
"I honestly don't know what we have scheduled in terms of polling here in these districts," McCleary said.
If you want to see Congressman Ron Barber face off against GOP challenger Martha McSally, here's your chance.
The candidates will debate at a forum sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and Arizona Public Media from 6 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the UA Student Union.
The public is welcome to attend, but if you can't make it there, you can watch the debate live on KUAT Channel 6, listen to it on KUAZ FM 89.1, or catch it streaming online at azpm.org.