Carmona scoffs at the notion — saying he’s never been a rubber stamp for anybody. He vows to take his independent thinking to the U.S. Senate.
The new ad comes a day after a pair of polls showed Flake’s lead over Carmona is slipping.
“President Obama wanted an Arizona senator to help push his agenda – bigger government, higher taxes, more spending and debt,” the narrator says. “He called Richard Carmona. Carmona said yes. He’d be Obama’s man in Arizona.”
The National Republican Congressional Campaign and Flake have been trying to link Carmona to Obama throughout the race, pointing to a phone call made by President Obama encouraging Carmona to run.
Carmona says there was no arm-twisting in that now infamous phone conversation and that the President was among many people who urged him to run. Carmona, who was a registered independent until he switched to Democrat in November 2011, says he remains an independent at heart who will make decisions based on his convictions, not at the direction of party leaders.
“Has anyone here every accused me of being a rubber stamp for anything, whether its Democrats, Republicans, or independents?” Carmona said this week. “That’s not my reputation, and I’ve been here 28 years. When I needed to stand up, I stand up, based on my values or in the case of the Surgeon General, the science of the situation.”
Carmona served as U.S. Surgeon General under Republican President George W. Bush from 2002-2006. In 2007, he testified before Congress that he was forbidden to speak out on such hot-button issues as stem-cell research, abstinence, sexual health, abortion and emergency contraception when the science didn't jibe with President Bush's political views, Carmona
The campaign to brand him as a ‘rubber stamp’ for President Obama is a diversion by Flake to avoid his lackluster record in Congress over his 12 years, Carmona said.
“What they assert on TV is purely political chicanery,” Carmona said.
Carmona said he’s not “running from” President Obama, but said the link has no merit. He’s only met President Obama once in person — eight or nine years ago on the Larry King Show when Obama was still a Senator and Carmona was Surgeon General.
“That’s the last time I ever saw him,” Carmona said.
He said it would be much easier to link him to President George W. Bush because of the time they spent together in the White House and on travels during his time as U.S. Surgeon General.
Carmona says its disingenuous for Republicans to be attacking him now after supporting him in the past. He was recruited in the mid-2000s by Arizona Republicans to run for governor against Democrat Janet Napolitano. He also is quick to remind people that Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain spoke highly about him in 2002 when he went through Senate confirmation hearings to become U.S. Surgeon General.
Sens. Kyl and McCain have endorsed Flake in this race, and McCain this week decried Carmona’s latest campaign ad calling out Flake’s votes against veterans as inaccurate. Kyl told the Associated Press that it’s true the GOP recruited Carmona years ago, but noted it came before Carmona testified before Congress with disparaging remarks about President Bush.
Flake stands behind his ad, saying that Carmona can say what he wants, but that he has not distinguished himself from President Obama on the issues. He will just fall in line with his policies if elected, he said.
“We can’t afford that as a country,” Flake said this week.
Stay tuned to the Pueblo Politics blog throughout 2012 for news, updates and information about Arizona politics. You can follow Arizona Daily Star reporters Brady McCombs, Becky Pallack and Tim Steller on Twitter.