Photo: Dr. Richard Carmona
Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, is very close to becoming the first Latino to be elected to the federal Senate from Arizona, a state that has clashed with Washington in defending its stand against undocumented immigration.
“This has been a great experience for me, I’ve never run for public office before,” Dr. Carmona told Efe in an interview.
The Senate hopeful said his work is well known in Arizona, since before his 2002-2006 term as surgeon general he spent more than 25 years here with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy, detective, department surgeon and SWAT Team Leader.
The son of Puerto Rican parents, Carmona, 62, grew up in poverty in New York and dropped out of high school at 16.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. After his return he attended Bronx Community College before going on to the University of California, San Francisco, where he earned his B.S. and M.D. degrees.
Carmona hopes to become the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Arizona, a state where 30 percent of the population is Latino.
“I believe our community wants a candidate who understands its culture and the problems it faces,” the Democratic candidate said.
Carmona is running against veteran Republican congressman Jeff Flake in a close contest that could be decided by the turnout of Latino voters.
In 2010, Arizona became the epicenter of the debate on undocumented immigration when state law SB 1070 was passed, the first to criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants.
Carmona believes that the solution to the problem of undocumented immigration is comprehensive immigration reform.
John M. Soltero, a native of Tucson and Vietnam veteran, gave Carmona his support because he believes he understands very well the problems affecting veterans.
Another Latino who also backs Carmona is Carmen Lopez, a Mexican immigrant who will vote for the first time next Tuesday.
“Exercising my right to vote was one of the reasons I became a citizen. We want a change in Arizona and I think electing the first Hispanic senator will be a good start,” she said.