Can Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake win a statewide election?
The jury returns on election night, but for now questions abound.
As a member of the House of Representatives since 2000, Flake has a record that is thin to say the least.
Yes, he has supported the sanctity of human life.
However, he is a back bencher who was never trusted with any significant degree of leadership.
Flake has draw the scorn of conservatives for supporting McCain-style amnesty, and he opposed state legislation and ballot propositions aimed at plugging the sieve of illegals at the border. He’s been on the wrong side of the issue his entire tenure in Washington.
As the handpicked candidate of Sen. John McCain and the retiring Jon Kyl, Flake has the power and muscle of the McCain machine behind him. That’s the machine that ran a vicious, negative campaign that bloodied J.D. Hayworth two years ago. Flake’s got a huge money advantage on conservative Gilbert challenger Wil Cardon. And McCain’s puppetry of Flake has discouraged most conservatives who might have entertained notions of running for Kyl’s seat.
Flake’s Mormon religion has been his ticket to re-election in Gilbert, but it won’t go as far in a statewide race. When Matt Salmon ran for governor 10 years ago, cross-over Republicans enabled left-winger Janet Napolitano to over-perform in Republican districts in Scottsdale and Tucson and defeat him. The same may hold true for Flake.
By supporting the homosexual agenda’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA, Flake forfeitted any pretense of conservative credentials. In fact, that alone will get him a primary endorsement over Cardon in the Republican primary. Flake was one of very few Republicans to fall for that left-wing bill that threatens religious freedom in Arizona and every other state.
Richard Carmona is likely to win the Democrat Party’s primary opposite Flake, and could be a formidable opponent. In some regards, Flake would not offer enough of a contrast from Carmona to merit victory in a statewide election. Carmona is a former U.S. surgeon general and will have no shortage of national fundraising support. As a long-time member of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Carmona was a SWAT team member and highly decorated officer. He is a combat-decorated Vietnam War veteran. His background is much more impressive than Flake’s, and Democrats are sniffing blood in the water because they see Flake as vulnerable and Kyl’s seat as a great opportunity to gain a seat long held by Republicans.
Carmona isn’t divulging much about his views on the issues on his campaign website, but he may well position himself as a moderate. That could pose problems for Flake with the state’s 1 million registered Independents.
Flake’s ability to hold his own in a high-profile debate against an opponent with professional experience is another question mark.
According to Roll Call:
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.
It’s that lack of discipline that causes conservatives angst about Flake. And other than a tenure as director of the Goldwater Insitute, Flake hasn’t held a non-government job or served with the distinction Carmona has.
By staking their hopes on Flake, Arizona’s establishment Republicans may be handing a seat to the Democrats in an election year when every seat is critical to the GOP’s hopes of taking control of the Senate.