Wil Cardon, Wealthy Candidate for U.S. Senate, Presses On Despite Bleak Poll Numbers

If anyone can match the millions raised by six-term congressman Jeff Flake in his bid to replace retiring Senator Jon Kyl, it's Valley businessman Wil Cardon.

It was Cardon's family that provided $10 million to help build the Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, and Cardon has put more than a million dollars into his campaign, which he kicked off last August.

But money can't buy love, and two Public Policy polls show that public sentiment hasn't shifted one iota toward Cardon since November.

Back then, Flake was solidly kicking the butt of Cardon (who has been in second among several other Republican contenders) 53 to 7 points.

The company that did the survey, Public Policy Polling, issued a more recent poll last week. Cardon's still in second -- but still managed to attract just 7 percent of the poll takers. Flake's numbers, meanwhile, went up a few notches to 56, meaning he was 49 points ahead of Cardon. The poll's margin of error was 4.8 percent.

Despite the dismal difference, Cardon remains upbeat and notes that enough time exists before the Republican primary -- September 11 -- to turn it around.

"The poll numbers at this point in the race are totally irrelevent," he says. "We're right on schedule for where we need to be."

Cardon puts stock in another statistic that came out last week, this one from a straw poll conducted among more than 300 Republicans attending a recent luncheon. That poll had him beating Flake 51-38. Cardon acknowledges it wasn't a scientific survey, but says it shows unhappiness with his competitor.

Cardon says his campaign has swelled from contributions outside his own wallet, while Jeff Flake was tossed into the "losers" pile by a February Washington Post article on the latest fund-raising numbers.

Clearly, Cardon will continue to struggle to make gains against the well-known Flake, a guy whom he used to think of so highly that he served on the finance committe of Flake's campaign. Poorly reviewed attacks on Flake's travel expenses aren't going to cut it.

On at least one major issue, immigration, Cardon and Flake share a belief that "amnesty" shouldn't be an option -- something Cardon says Flake "flip-flopped" over. The Mesa businessman is trying to play up his "outsider" credentials, focusing on his proven business skills.

Cardon and his family are going to make sure we all hear a lot about him in the coming months.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern