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Richard Carmona Officially Kicks Off Arizona Senate Bid

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona officially began his campaign today to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) after announcing his candidacy in November.

The campaign released a Web video that signals that the Carmona strategy is to run against Washington. In the video, he repeatedly criticizes Washington as images of the Capitol and American families and workers are shown. “We deserve better than what we get from Washington,” Carmona says into the camera.

The tone runs counter to the support Carmona has had from national Democrats. For months in 2011, the Washington Democratic establishment has made a notable recruitment push to encourage Carmona to run. The effort included a call from President Barack Obama.

To be the Democratic nominee, Carmona must first beat former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens. The Bivens campaign responded soon after the video’s release.

“Today, former Bush Administration official Richard Carmona entered the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate,” Bivens campaign aide Mark Bergman said in a statement. “In response to his announcement, Bivens’ supporters spoke out in their support for Don Bivens and the need to elect a U.S. Senator who has a proven record of standing for Democratic values.”

The rest of the Carmona video is largely biographical, citing his experiences as a trauma surgeon, service in Vietnam and his work as “a business guy.” Carmona references his service as surgeon general but does not mention that it was as part of the Bush administration. He criticizes the nation’s capital as well.

“I learned a thing or two about Washington during my time as surgeon general,” Carmona says. “I went to improve public health, but what I found was a place affected with a desire to score political points, even if it meant declaring a war on science and undermining our health.”

Rep. Jeff Flake is considered to have the inside track for the GOP nod in the Senate race. But over the past few weeks, some Republican strategists in the state have begun to wonder whether previous stances on immigration and cap-and-trade might prove to be an Achilles’ heel in the GOP primary.

In 2009, Flake introduced legislation that would put a carbon tax on the production and distribution of fossil fuels with offsets to the payroll tax. But he later criticized the cap-and-trade bill that eventually passed the House that year.

Similarly, in the past year he has backtracked on support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Roll Call rates this race as Likely Republican.

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