Outside money is starting to pour into Arizona’s U.S. Senate race, which is shaping up to be a tight one between Republican Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona.

Voters will have a chance to hear the two square off on the issues in three televised debates that have been scheduled for October with one each in Tucson, Phoenix and Yuma. But, only the Yuma debate will have a live audience.

Carmona and Flake are vying to replace Sen. Jon Kyl, the Senate's Republican whip who is retiring after 18 years in office. Libertarian Marc Victor is also on the ballot.


Earlier this week, word broke that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would spend $526,000 on TV ads supporting Carmona, which are expected to hit the airwaves any day now.

The conservative Club for Growth PAC responded by announcing a $500,000 effort to support Flake. The group, which already has one TV ad up, has endorsed Flake and been a major supporter. The organization has directed more than $1 million to Flake by way of bundled donations from individuals and spent another $1 million in the primary on TV and radio ads and mailers to support him.

Flake is "unmatched in his commitment to fighting wasteful spending in Washington and promoting policies that will grow the economy," the group said in a press release announcing the investment.

Also this week, the conservative Freedomworks for America decided to open a field office in Arizona to support Flake. The group has now spent nearly $431,000 to produce online ads and support Flake’s candidacy, show the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission.  

The money being spent by conservative groups to help Flake is a sign of the strength of Carmona's candicacy, said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"The more Arizona voters learn about Carmona’s distinguished service to our country, record of accomplishment and strong bipartisan credentials, the more they are rejecting an extreme career politician like Jeff Flake,“ Canter said in an emailed statement.


Flake has agreed to do three debates with Carmona in October. Here’s the list, sent out in an email from Flake’s campaign with the note that there could be more to come:

• Oct. 10.

Where: Phoenix at KAET-TV 8 studios.

Time: 5-6 p.m.

It will be aired live on KAET-TV 8 and nationally on PBS World and C-Span.

• Oct. 15

Where: Tucson at KUAT-TV 6 studios.

Time: 6-7 p.m.

It will be broadcast on KUAT-TV 6 and simulcast on radio.

• Oct. 25

Where: Yuma at the Arizona Western College before an audience.

Time: To be determined.

It will be aired on KECY-TV and KAWC public radio at a later time.

Carmona made sure nobody forget that Flake had turned down several other opportunities for the two to square off. Through his spokesman, Carmona said that Flake must be worried to have abandoned his previous strategy of dodging public appearances with Carmona.

Flake had previously turned down an offer from the Arizona Daily Star, which had offered any of six dates in early October, with the debate to be co-sponsored by the Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise and held at its Desert Diamond Casino just off I-19 between Tucson and Green Valley.


Flake is considered the front-runner in the race, but a new poll from Public Policy Polling shows Carmona with a 45-43 percent lead. It is the first time any public poll has shown Carmona with a lead.

The poll shows Carmona with a 52-37 percent lead on Flake among independent voters. It was a survey of of 595 likely Arizona voters done Oct. 1-3. Public Policy Polling is considered to be a Democrat-leaning polling firm.

The same poll shows Republican Mitt Romney with a 9-percentage point lead on President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the presidential race in Arizona.

The organization has now done three polls on the Arizona U.S. Senate race, with each showing a 2-point or less margin between Flake and Carmona.

“The Arizona Senate race really belongs in the toss up column at this point,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, in a press release.

But two websites which make predictions — Sabato's Crystal Ball and the Rothenberg Political Report — continue to rate Arizona’s Senate race “leaning” Republican. Those predictions fall short of the more bold, “Safe Republican” rating, but keep the race out of the “toss up” zone.

And a survey done in late September of 500 likely Arizona voters by Rasmussen showed Flake with a 47 percent to 41 percent lead on Carmona. Nine percent were undecided. Rasmussen is considered a more Republican-leaning organization.

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.