The concise answer to the Arizona U.S. Senate contest is this: "The Mormons vote. The Mexicans don't." If that pattern repeats, along with the typically disgraceful low turnout, then Republican Jeffrey Lane Flake will win. The Flake momentum will only grow if President Obama continues his self-immolation against wealthy Republican financier Willard Milton "Mitt" Romney.
That's a shame on so many fronts. Jon Kyl, who is retiring after being in the Senate since 1995, has been a disaster for both Arizona and the country. Along with wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III and Flake himself, Kyl set the template for a delegation that is almost exclusively concerned with furthering an extremist right-wing agenda while doing nothing for the state they nominally claim to represent. The consequences of the former include being willing to wreck the country (further) just to defeat President Obama. The consequences of the latter are particularly insidious for Arizona's worsening predicament.
For most of its history, Arizona's congressional delegation, particularly its senators, were expected to serve the interests of the state in Washington, not be national showboats. This is why, for example, millions of Phoenicians can turn on the water tap and never worry whether water will come out. This happened because Sen. Carl Hayden in particular but the entire delegation for generations championed the Central Arizona Project. Every member, Democrat and Republican, was determined that Arizona not only get its "fair share" of federal money, but more than that.
This changed as the old leaders died off, carpetbaggers arrived and the great god of population growth took over in the 1970s. The Republican-dominated congressional delegation never made the pivot to address the state's needs through quality federal money. Texas does this superbly, one of the reasons for the state's success in many fields. But neither Kyl nor McCain did anything to bring federal labs, research dollars or major economic cluster-building assets to Arizona. Both fought light rail funding for Phoenix (Thanks to Rep. Ed Pastor. WBIYB). Effectively steering federal money to a state is a key competitiveness issue. Due in no small part to the delegation, Arizona keeps falling behind.
In Richard Carmona, Democrats have a dream candidate: a bootstrapped man of accomplishment, decorated Vietnam and Special Forces veteran, physician, deputy sheriff and Surgeon General under George W. Bush. After resigning that post, Carmona joined other surgeons general to spotlight how the Bush administration was muzzling science on such critical issues as climate change. Carmona would get Arizona back in position to benefit from federal funding for a quality economy. He's right on the issues, from the environment to social justice. And he's rational, a scientist.
Naturally, then, he is slightly trailing Flake, the former executive director of the "Goldwater" Institute, great-grandson of Mormon pioneers (Snowflake) and movement conservative. Flake is vehemently opposed to "pork barrel spending." Translation: He will do nothing to help a populous, urbanized state address complex issues, opposing responses at the federal or local level. He lacks even Kyl's water expertise, such as it is. The GOP war machine has Flake's vote; veterans don't. He is, of course, a climate-change "denier" and has tried to politicize the National Science Foundation. His position on women's reproductive issues is predictable. His is the "party of life," until one is actually born. For all his aw-shucks demeanor, Flake is a hard-core ideologue.
I am baffled that the presidential race is close, or that the odious Scott Brown could win over Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. Here in the Arizona Senate contest, I am sadly not surprised. But I want to be. This is a gut check. Will the people enamored of Bill Clinton's appearance Wednesday night actually get off their butts in the Arizona rooms of their subdivisions and vote for Carmona? And will Hispanics finally, at long last, claim the prize of the vote?
If Flake wins, he'll be senator for life and help cement both the radicalism of the national GOP. Worse, he will confirm that Arizona is a solid red state, whatever scraps are left in a few congressional districts. Worst, he will be right there abetting the national suicide with all his anti-rational dogma. A Carmona win could help America avoid the worst. Yes, the stakes are just that high.