Phoenix attorney and ex-Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens removed himself from the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate today, leaving the way clear for former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona to snag the Dems' nod for the post.
In a statement to the press, Bivens claimed that he was taking a powder so the Dems would triumph this fall, when the Democratic nominee is expected to face off against Republican U.S. Congressman Jeff Flake.
"While I am confident we would win this primary," Bivens said, "the cost and impact on the party I've spent my life fighting for could diminish our chance to achieve the ultimate goal -- winning in November."
Though I would disagree with Bivens' contention that he would have won the primary contest, I applaud him for recognizing that Carmona is a superior candidate, one far more likely to best GOP golden-boy Flake.
(Note: Flake still faces a primary challenge from monied wingnut Wil Cardon, a goofy political neophyte, but it's unlikely Cardon will be more than a bump in the road for the congressman.)
Carmona has several advantages in a head-to-head matchup against Flake.
As a decorated Vietnam vet and a record of service as a Pima County Sheriff's Deputy, Carmona has crossover appeal to both Republicans and Independents. Along the same lines, Carmona served as Surgeon General under Republican President George W. Bush and has described himself as a "radical centrist," both of which will help him win over the middle.
Of Puerto Rican descent and a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, the Tucsonan has already energized Latinos and will give them yet another reason to head to the polls in November.
Also, he can boast the support of the White House, since one of those who encouraged him to run was none other than President Barack Obama. Finally, a poll done in late 2011 showed Carmona within four points of tying Flake in the general.
In the same poll, Bivens trailed Flake by 10 points, and Bivens himself was unable to generate any enthusiasm for his campaign among Ds, likely because of his dismal record as party chair, one still fresh in Democrats' memories.
I recently wrote that for the good of the party, Bivens should return to his lucrative career as a partner in the mega-law firm of Snell & Wilmer. Now that he's done so, consider my hat tipped.
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Carmona was gracious in accepting Bivens bow-out, as a statement posted on his campaign website shows:
"I thank Don, his family and his campaign team for their selfless service to the party and eagerly anticipate working with them to move Arizona forward. He will be an integral player in any winning strategy and I look forward to working with him in the months ahead."
The reason Dems should unite behind Carmona is that he's part of an overall strategy to flip this state and turn it blue in November.
If it happens, Arizona's reactionary, uber-conservative political discourse may finally shift toward pragmatism and, let's be honest, reality. That would be akin to a political earthquake here in the land of moon-howlers, birthers and birth control-haters.