Democrat Rich Carmona Races Toward the U.S. Senate

President Bill Clinton and Rich Carmona after a Tempe rally.
Jamie Peachey

Bill Clinton electrifies the crowd during a rally for Rich Carmona's U.S. Senate campaign.

The rock star of American politics is with Carmona on a stage erected on Arizona State University's Performance Lawn for a "Get Out The Vote" rally the day before early voting began October 11.

Clinton, Carmona standing at his side, elicits a thunderous roar from the crowd of more than 5,500 attendees — including a throng of young undocumented immigrants who call themselves DREAMers — when the 42nd president of the United States drawls that adopting "the DREAM Act is the right thing to do."

Carmona is a staunch supporter of the federal legislation aimed at creating a path toward citizenship for undocumented youth. Because it offers the potential for life-changing opportunity, he often compares the DREAM Act to the GI Bill, a law that, among other things, covers education expenses for veterans. Carmona, who grew up poor and served in Vietnam, used the benefits to pay for college and medical school.

"There are a lot of Richard Carmonas out there, and they all deserve their chance at their dreams," the former Democratic president declares, drawing more cheers.

See also: Attack ad featuring Penzone accuser Cristina Beato discredited.

Unlike his opponent, Congressman Jeff Flake, who hardly grew up poor and never served in the armed forces, Carmona has maintained consistent support for allowing certain undocumented students an opportunity to earn citizenship by joining the military or working toward college degrees.

About six months earlier, the former surgeon general under another U.S. president, Republican George W. Bush, had stood in front of a room, delivering the same message to the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition.

Over Carmona's shoulder was a giant portrait of Martin Luther King Jr., a universal symbol of social justice. And it's social justice that Carmona pledges to pursue as he speaks to the audience filled with DREAMers.

One of them asks the onetime darling of Republicans whether he will flip-flop on his support of the DREAM Act.

"You never saw me flip-flop," Carmona responded. "On immigration, I've always stood firm . . . I ask you to trust me on that."

Carmona, an Independent before he became a Democrat to seek the Senate seat getting vacated by Republican Jon Kyl, tells New Times that if he's elected, he will lean on the president — whomever voters choose on November 6 — to make the DREAM Act a top priority.

"We should do everything we can to give these youngsters opportunity," he says.

The measure once enjoyed bipartisan support but now is demonized as backdoor amnesty by Tea Party extremists. And that has forced Republicans with moderate views, like Flake, to scurry to the far right to garner political support from the GOP base.

The old Flake, who has represented Arizona's 6th Congressional District since 2001, sponsored multiple comprehensive immigration-reform bills. The old Flake pushed for guest-worker programs for immigrants.

The congressman's campaign didn't return repeated calls for an interview for this story. On Flake's website, however, he explains that he "no longer" supports broad immigration reform.

"I've been down that road, and it is a dead end," he writes. "The political realities in Washington are such that a comprehensive solution is not possible or even desirable given the current leadership. Border security must be addressed before other reforms are tackled."

As for Carmona, he professes a desire to change such realities and reminded the DREAM Act Coalition audience in April of his "commitment to not being a politician but being honest on these issues."

Smiles spread across the faces of the hopeful young immigrants.

The race for the seat that Jon Kyl held for nearly two decades not only is pivotal for DREAMers desperate for an advocate in Washington, its outcome will signal whether Arizona stays a Republican stronghold or becomes a state where Democrats once again can win the highest offices.

It also is one of about a dozen races across the nation poised to determine the balance of political power in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority over Republicans. (Independent senators Joseph Lieberman and Bernard Sanders tend to vote with Democrats.)

Analysis is fluid, as is the Democrats' and Republicans' momentum.

Real Clear Politics, which provides a nonpartisan view of the nation's political landscape, sees 46 seats in Senate going to the Democrats, while 43 are likely to remain in Republican control. That leaves 11 up for grabs in the currently Democrat-controlled Senate — the seat Kyl is leaving in Arizona being one.

Most political pundits dismissed Arizona as a battleground state in the presidential race, assuming it would go to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, just as it had to favorite son Senator John McCain four years ago. But recent polls — even those conducted by GOP-friendly organizations — have shifted the race for the White House in Arizona from leaning toward the GOP to a statistical dead heat to Republican-leaning again.


In the Senate race, a poll conducted in late September by Republican operative Chuck Coughlin showed Flake three points ahead, meaning the race was too close too call. A Behavior Research Center poll from early October showed Carmona ahead of Flake by four points.

Before the first presidential debate, polls showed Obama "closing the gap" on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Arizona, Coughlin wrote. Those polls shifted to Romney's favor after the debate, largely because of Obama's lackluster performance. An average of late September/early October polls conducted in this state by various organizations — including the Washington Times, Fox, and Gallup — put Romney ahead of Obama by 7.6 points. Obama received a bump from his vice president, Joe Biden, after his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, on October 11. As of October 15, Real Clear Politics showed Romney's lead down to 5.3 points.

The initial tilt toward Obama in Arizona prompted the president's campaign, which never before had a major presence here, to start airing television ads in the Phoenix area. It was an infusion of money aimed at ginning up Democrats' enthusiasm, pushing the state toward Obama and giving Carmona a bigger bump.

If Carmona wins the election, he will be Arizona's first Latino U.S. senator. He also will be the first Democrat to hold the office since former Senator Dennis DeConcini left Congress in 1995.

Well, sort of.

Carmona was a lifelong registered Independent who switched political gears in 2011 to run for the Senate seat. Despite his last-minute conversion, he enjoys several of the same political advantages that first ushered lifelong Democrat DeConcini into the Senate in 1976.

Among those, according to Democratic political strategist Bill Scheel, Carmona will face an opponent tattered from a nasty primary campaign, in that businessman Will Cardon forced Flake to spew hardcore Tea Party rhetoric that won't resonate with enough voters in the general election. DeConcini enjoyed a similar advantage because his first general-election opponent also had emerged from a highly contentious primary race.

And, Scheel notes, both Carmona and DeConcini boast law-and-order credentials that have helped propel Arizona Democrats into statewide office: DeConcini was Pima County Attorney, and Carmona was a deputy with the Pima County Sheriff's Department and a former Army Green Beret.

Carmona doesn't share DeConcini's conservative Democratic philosophy — he espouses mostly progressive views — but he's nonetheless appealing to Arizona voters because he comes across as an independent leader, Scheel says.

Another advantage for Carmona is his long history of receiving Republican love. He was nominated as surgeon general by President George W. Bush, snapping up glowing endorsements from GOP lawmakers, after which he was confirmed unanimously in July 2002 by the Senate.

"With his military and law enforcement background, coupled with his demonstrated commitment to public health and community preparedness, Dr. Carmona is extraordinarily — perhaps uniquely — qualified to address the needs of our nation as surgeon general," Senator John McCain said in 2002. Arizona's Republican senior senator also called Carmona an "invaluable leader" after his appointment.

Former GOP Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe called Carmona an "outspoken, principled, energetic, and charismatic leader."

High-ranking Republicans attempted to recruit Carmona to run for public office. Even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, secretary of state at the time, asked him to run for governor under the Republican banner.

Democrats also courted Carmona, whose hardscrabble beginnings as a high school dropout, his military experience as a decorated combat medic in Vietnam, his nearly three decades in law enforcement, and his medical careers in hospital administration and as a vascular surgeon, make him an attractive candidate.

"I was honored when this man, a lifelong Independent, decided he would run on our party's ticket for United States Senate," Clinton told the crowd during the Tempe rally. "I can't think of a person in America, without regard to party, who is more needed at this moment in our history in the U.S. Senate, by virtue of his biography, by virtue of his record, by virtue of his philosophy."

When he heard that Carmona might run for Arizona's Senate seat, President Barack Obama phoned the former Bush surgeon general and urged him to go for it.

And it's been that phone call that has fueled Flake's primary TV attack ad against Carmona, the one in which Flake's campaign calls Carmona the president's "handpicked" candidate. The ad goes on to allege that the former Republican appointee supports the president's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and would dutifully serve as a "rubber stamp" for a Democratic White House.

It's a clear nod to Tea Party Republicans who control the GOP nowadays — the same party faction that has caused so many Republicans, notably Flake and McCain before him, to start spouting hard-right rhetoric.


Obama haters also note that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a Tea Party scourge, courted Carmona to run.

Carmona says the brief exchange with Obama was just one of many calls he received as he explored seeking the Senate seat.

"By the time the president called, I already knew I was going to do it. But I wasn't sure how I was going to do it," Carmona tells New Times. "All the president said to me was, 'Rich, I hear that you're considering running for office. Think about it, because we need to get more people like you to help us in Washington.'"

Describing Carmona as a "rubber stamp" for any presidential administration is a hard sell given his very public blasting of the Bush administration, which sang his praises and appointed him the nation's 17th U.S. surgeon general.

Carmona did not mince words when he accused the Bush White House of putting theology and ideology above scientific facts. He testified during a 2007 Congressional hearing that the administration censored him as surgeon general, allowing him to discuss only medical opinions that aligned with the Republican Party platform.

Carmona complained that his speeches were vetted by "political appointees who were specifically there to be able to spin . . . my words in such a way to be preferable to a political or ideological preconceived notion that had nothing to do with science."

He revealed that the Bush administration limited his discussion in areas where the GOP already had staked a firm position — stem-cell research, emergency contraception, sex education. He also accused top officials of delaying the release, or diluting the message, of other reports, including one that concluded that secondhand smoke could cause immediate physical harm.

He was not invited back as Bush's surgeon general after his four-year term expired in 2006.

Even the current Democratic president's personal interest in his campaign hasn't stopped Carmona from criticizing the Affordable Care Act. Part of the criticism is a political ploy to prove to voters that Carmona is his own man, but part of it is that he seems unable to tell the "acceptable lie" so popular in modern national politics (cue GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan).

"It's a great move forward to make sure everyone has access to a basic set of healthcare benefits," Carmona says. But he adds that the Obama administration should have done much more to help Americans understand the country's new healthcare law.

In one political ad, Carmona announces that both parties "got it wrong" on healthcare. And when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA, Carmona released a similar statement that "both Democrats and Republicans got it wrong" because more than 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion spent on healthcare costs goes toward treating preventable chronic diseases.

After practicing medicine on the battlefield and in trauma centers, Carmona is frank about the need to stop politicizing health and social issues.

He admitted during an April 2011 health summit in Wisconsin that, when he got his first call from the White House asking him if he was interested in becoming Bush's surgeon general, he thought it was a practical joke.

Carmona thought, "Obviously they got the wrong Richard Carmona," he told the Wisconsin audience. "I'm not a political operative. In fact, I'm probably the antithesis of what they want in Washington because I think both sides are equally dysfunctional."

As political consultant Scheel averred, it's a philosophy — along with his storied résumé — that endears him to Arizona voters.

Referring to Carmona, Valley GOP operative Jason Rose told TalkingPointsMemo a few months ago that "Zeus sent the Democratic Party here a political Greek god." In the same article, onetime Republican state Attorney General Grant Woods said Carmona has a "great" and "beautiful story" that makes voters root for him.

Carmona was born to Puerto Rican parents in New York City on November 22, 1949, and lived at first in the Bronx's Washington Heights neighborhood on 110th Street.

His mother struggled with alcoholism and his father often was absent. When Carmona was 6 years old, he came home from school and saw his family's meager belongings piled in a Salvation Army truck. At the top of the heap was his little bicycle.

"My family couldn't afford to pay the rent," he says. "They told [us] that we couldn't live there anymore."

That was his first brush with homelessness. After that, he and his siblings were split up and moved among relatives, sleeping on floors and couches. The family eventually landed in an apartment on 151st Street in Harlem.

Carmona hasn't lost his sense of humor about those hard times. He likes to joke that he's so healthy today because he grew up "exposed to every pathogen known to mankind" in roach- and rat-infested apartments and learned to swim in the Harlem River.


Blunt as only a doctor can be, he told about 700 supporters at a Women for Carmona fundraiser in Scottsdale that he could "feel the estrogen in the room."

During that September event, he spoke about his mother's drilling into his impressionable young mind the value of education, yet he and his siblings dropped out of high school and spent their days "running the streets of Harlem."

Carmona knows that he disappointed his mom and grandmother.

In the years that followed, he tried to make up for the mistakes of his youth — but his mother never lived to see his success.

At 16, in 1966, he dropped out of high school. The following year, he decided to join the Army. His application to enter its elite Special Forces unit initially was rejected, largely because he didn't have a high school diploma.

"But the Army was good to me," Carmona says. "I got my equivalency diploma, and I got into Special Forces. I started to see a bigger world than the one I saw where I grew up in the 'hood."

Carmona served from 1967 to 1974, primarily as a weapons specialist and a combat medic who treated gunshot wounds and delivered babies. His wartime valor earned him two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars.

When Carmona decided that he wanted to go to college, he submitted one application after another — all rejected. His GED and military experience weren't enough.

He finally was accepted to Bronx Community College during an open enrollment for military veterans. He changed his military status to reservist and enrolled in college courses, taking advantage of the GI Bill.

The federal program that provides tuition payments and other financial assistance to veterans "was my DREAM Act; it's what gave me the opportunity to become the first in my family to go to college," he wrote in a column posted on Univision's website. "I never have forgotten my heritage or where I came from. And that's why I feel so strongly about providing education and opportunities to our kids."

Carmona earned an associate of arts degree in 1973 and continued his education at California State University-Long Beach. He earned his medical degree from the University of California-San Francisco in 1979, where he completed his surgical residency.

He moved to Arizona in 1985 to help establish Tucson Medical Center's first trauma unit. He was director of trauma services until 1993 and spent a year as CEO and medical director of the Kino Community Hospital in Tucson. After that, he was promoted to head the Pima County Health Department.

Taking an incongruous turn, Carmona joined the Pima County Sheriff's Department in 1986, working under Clarence Dupnik, a rare liberal among Arizona sheriffs.

The two had met at a fundraising dinner for the Tucson Medical Center. Just before he got the job, Carmona had been tapped to be medical director for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But he decided that he wanted a more hands-on job in law enforcement.

From the time he started until 2002, he always worked part time as a deputy, a chief deputy, "department surgeon," and leader of the SWAT unit. He remains listed as department surgeon and deputy sheriff, even though they technically are ceremonial posts since he has no time for the PCSD now that he's running for the Senate.

Dupnik expresses the utmost respect for Carmona: "I've never seen anyone who has the kind of energy and stamina that he has. He makes quick decisions, and they're always right."

But Carmona has his detractors. Complaints against him bubbled up after President Bush nominated him to be surgeon general and the Senate prepared to conduct confirmation hearings.

"A larger-than-life personality, [Carmona] has left in his wake many bruised egos and hard feelings. His critics point out that he has benefited at many turns in his life from rules being bent in his favor. He got into medical school without a college degree . . . He ran a trauma unit for eight years even though he hadn't passed . . . board exams," the Los Angeles Times reported in 2002.

There's some truth to this.

The American Surgical Board exams he didn't pass until his third try are voluntary to obtain board certification; it's legal to practice medicine and perform surgery without them. As for his college degree, on the eve of graduation — after he already had been accepted into medical school — Carmona learned he was short a couple of general-studies courses, including one in history. He was ready to postpone medical school to complete his degree at Cal State, but UC-San Francisco officials told him to transfer to the university's medical school and it would award him his bachelor's degree after he completed his first year.


An old clash between Carmona and a former female boss also surfaced. The 2007 complaint about alleged incidents when he was surgeon general was filed by Cristina Beato, a top official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She claimed that he screamed at her and twice pounded on the front door of her home in the middle of the night in a rage over workplace disagreements.

Flake's trying to resurrect the claim in a campaign ad featuring a somber Beato broadly accusing Carmona of having issues with "anger, ethics, and women" and declaring he should "never, ever" be in the U.S. Senate.

Carmona says the incidents never happened. He also notes that she was denied Senate confirmation in 2004 as assistant secretary for the HHS because she "fabricated her résumé."

In the 30-second commercial, which also airs in Spanish, Beato says she "feared for her kids and for herself" — yet she never filed a police report or a formal complaint against Carmona.

Medical colleagues, including former University of Arizona surgery professor Charles W. Putnam, raised questions about Carmona's clashing occupations — medical doctor and gun-toting sheriff's deputy — especially since Carmona once killed a suspect.

According to various reports in Tucson newspapers, in September 1999, Carmona was off-duty as a sheriff's deputy and on his way to a University of Arizona football game, where he was scheduled to be physician on duty in case of on-field injuries. He came upon a traffic accident at a Tucson intersection and stopped to help. Onlookers warned the approaching Carmona that the man who had caused the accident was armed. The articles state that Carmona returned to his car, called for backup, and grabbed his service handgun.

Attempts to persuade the suspect to surrender his gun failed, and he fired on Carmona, narrowly missing the doctor/deputy's head. Carmona returned fire and killed the man, whom police later determined was mentally ill and had killed his father just before the incident with Carmona.

Law enforcement officials praised Carmona for saving lives that day and (on this occasion and others) for risking his own life. In 1992, he dangled from a helicopter to rescue a man after a medical chopper crashed on snowy Mount Graham in southern Arizona. In 1988, Carmona was shot in the leg by a suicidal suspect during a SWAT operation.

Surgery professor Putnam wrote in his letter urging lawmakers to reject Carmona's surgeon general nomination: "It is patently clear that Sheriff Carmona . . . not Dr. Carmona, was at center stage [when he killed the suspect]. "Could not a physician have recognized the behavior of a mentally ill individual and responded in kind?"

Carmona says all these issues, some which date back more than two decades, were vetted by the U.S. Senate when members considered his surgeon general appointment — and he notes that the appointment was unanimous among a Senate almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

While working for the Sheriff's Department, Carmona got firsthand experience on the U.S.-Mexico border. He describes it as "complex," and he says it gave him a chance to bring the kind of humanitarianism essential in the medical profession to law enforcement.

"Most of what you encounter [along the border] are poor people who desperately want to eat or take some money home for their families," he says.

As a deputy, he worked with volunteer groups to place food and water in the desert to reduce the number of lives claimed each year by brutal temperatures.

"We tried to advise people that there was no way you are going to walk from Mexico to Phoenix, or even Tucson, in 110-degree heat, no matter what those coyotes [people smugglers] tell you."

Nativists criticize such humanitarianism as aiding immigrants unlawfully, but Carmona says, "Humanitarianism rises above all.

"Even people who break the law deserve to be treated as humans. That is a societal norm. That is our value. To just say, 'They're undocumented so just let them die in the desert?' Never! That doesn't make any sense."

About his diverse work history — which also includes a stint as an ocean lifeguard in New Jersey, time as a practical nurse in San Francisco, part-time work as a professor of surgery and pharmacy at the University of Arizona Medical School, and vice chairman of Canyon Ranch Institute, a health resort in Tucson — Carmona says:

"A lot of people think all that's pretty cool," he says with a grin. "And a lot of people think, 'Wow, that's just a guy who couldn't keep a job.' And, probably, there's some truth in that."


Rich Carmona contrasts starkly with Jeff Flake, a onetime moderate Republican who now espouses the Tea Party principles that have come to define the GOP.

Flake's history includes working as a former lobbyist and registered agent for Rossing Uranium, a mine that operates in the African country of Namibia. As a lobbyist, Flake was paid to influence lawmakers in Washington and to promote the firm's interests.

Carmona supports a woman's right to make her own healthcare decisions, including reproductive choices. Flake is a staunch anti-abortion advocate and co-sponsor of an anti-abortion bill containing the language "forcible rape" — a phrase suggesting that women have responsibility in certain rapes.

The sentiment behind the bill's language was uttered by Missouri Congressman Todd Akin in an election-season faux pas that became a big headache for the national Republican Party, only Akin used the term "legitimate rape." Akin's notion was that women who are legitimately raped don't tend to get pregnant because their bodies fend off hostile sperm.

Carmona and other veterans have attacked Flake for not supporting laws to aid members of the armed services, highlighting Flake's "no" vote on a bill that covers educational expenses for servicemen and -women who spent at least three years on active duty.

Flake has come under attack from, a national progressive veterans-advocacy group that's airing a campaign ad featuring an Iraq veteran slamming Flake's negative votes on several bills to provide benefits to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Jeff Flake doesn't deserve my vote or my respect," Steven Lopez, a Chandler resident who served two tours in Iraq, says in the video.

The congressman defends his no votes on certain veterans bills, saying that attached to them were financial earmarks for what he considered wasteful spending. Flake has bucked his own party on earmarks, the practice of attaching "pork barrel" funding for local projects to unrelated bills lawmakers are expected to adopt.

Flake argues on his website that his "commitment to the troops . . . is unshakable." Criticism of his votes — against increased funding for veterans programs, to cut veterans' benefits, and to block protections against increased healthcare costs for veterans — ignores the many times he voted in support of veterans, the congressman claims.

Flake's opponents ding the longtime lawmaker for breaking a pledge to serve only three terms in Congress, for paying his wife wages out of his political campaign funds, and for taking overseas junkets, including a week-long trip to Brazil with his wife to learn about global warming.

Critics contend that Flake's anti-abortion stands are anti-woman.

He has opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, along with a host of other healthcare needs; he helped create legislation allowing employers to exclude healthcare options for female employees, such as contraception coverage; and he voted against a measure that would have made it easier for women to fight wage discrimination.

Alluding to Flake's right-wing notions of late, Carmona says the political support he derives from moderate and conservative voters is "less about me and more about them feeling they don't have a home anymore."

He says that many are "offended that [Flake mirrors the Arizona Legislature in attempting] to legislate women's contraception and women's health rights. They're looking for a reasonable candidate who will support women's issues and women's health. And that's who I am. I think health never should be politicized."

Carmona's 62 years old, 13 years Flake's senior, but he wants to ensure young people that he speaks for them.

"A 20-year-old woman asked me," he recalls, "'Why are [politicians] arguing about whether I can take a birth-control pill when our nation is tanking? Why aren't you spending your time legislating issues that will help with jobs and the economy or make our education system better? [Young adults] want to understand why my generation cares about two guys or two girls living together. Why is that an important political issue?'"

The Senate hopeful answers, "Well, it isn't. Not for me. We should be able to live the way we want to live as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone else."

With early voting under way, Rich Carmona is crisscrossing Arizona in his four-door Chevy Malibu, trying at every stop to convince undecided voters that he will be an independent voice in Washington, despite his Democratic label.

He argues that this "election is about getting reasonable people to the table" to solve the nation's problems.

One of the issues at the top of Carmona's agenda is fixing the country's broken immigration system, and he's not entirely progressive on the subject. He wants to see the DREAM Act adopted, but he also wants the border secured against drug and human smuggling — and he wants a crackdown on businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens.


The DREAM Act aside, his immigration platform sounds more Republican than Democratic, except that he feathers in a measure of compassion: "We can't split families!" he declares.

Activist Irene Chavez, who attended the Women for Carmona fundraiser in Scottsdale, says, "Fighting for justice in Arizona has been like pushing a huge rock up a hill . . . Now we see a candidate like Carmona running for office, and it feels like real progress."

It's his balanced approach — and his unwavering support for fellow veterans — that attracts even staunch Republicans to Carmona.

Jon Altmann, a Navy veteran and longtime advocate for the military community, knew he would catch hell from fellow Republicans when he endorsed Carmona.

"I'm very aware of what Flake's voting record has been [regarding] us," says Altmann, a onetime Arizona GOP precinct committeeman in Phoenix. "I'm not going to ask my [military] constituency to vote for someone who doesn't have their best interests in mind."

Altmann believes that Carmona's public-service record trounces Flake's time in Congress, which is why the former surgeon general's attracting so many Republican voters.

"Flake has been in Congress for going on two decades," Altmann says, "and people look at career politicians and say, 'What have you done? Have you made it better?' Carmona went to war for my country in a very unpopular war and has spent his life saving lives [as a physician and cop]. He had to work hard for a living, and that appeals to Republicans.

"I've heard vets who are otherwise right-wing Republicans say, 'I'll make the exception, and I'll vote for Rich Carmona.'"

Altmann says Arizona isn't as "far right as Jeff Flake" has become. The polls that show Flake and Carmona in a dead heat (or give Carmona a slight lead) are evidence of the message Arizonans are sending, he says.

Indeed, Carmona says Arizonans are increasingly fed up with Tea Party politics.

"We're here because so many of us are tired of the vitriolic hatred-type of politics that's out there," he says. "Too often, we're all embarrassed by the words that come out of some of our elected officials' mouths."

During the ASU rally for Carmona, Clinton also blasted the political extremists who have commandeered the Republican Party, then offered: "Look, I've got a lot of Republican friends who want to invest in education, and I have a lot of Republican friends who are not anti-immigration. We're just talking about who is in control of their machine right now."

Speaking in favor of Carmona at the women's fundraiser was Lynda Carter, a Phoenix native who starred in the Wonder Woman television series, and Joanne Goldwater, oldest daughter of U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona conservative icon.

Goldwater says she supports Carmona because of his moderate views. She said her "vote is for the person, not the party."

She reminded everyone that her mother started Planned Parenthood — which the anti-abortion Romney-Ryan ticket wants to financially starve to death — and said, "We need some change in Arizona, and we need it as soon as possible."

Carter said she only played a superhero on TV, but Carmona is one.

"He's not a long shot anymore," she said.

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