The next person who will represent our state in the U.S. Senate must be effective on the national stage on immigration reform, education and fiscal policy.

Effective leadership will require being untethered to a rigid political ideology, and cooperation among disparate political parties and agencies.

We believe Richard Carmona is the best person to earn and accept this responsibility.

Carmona is facing longtime Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Libertarian Marc Victor.

Carmona has demonstrated independence - and although he is running as a Democrat, he served in a Republican administration as surgeon general. He also has been courted by Republicans to run for political office. Such bipartisan appeal is unusual and, we believe, essential in the closely divided legislative body.

In fact, Carmona didn't register as a Democrat until November 2011. "I've been an independent my whole life, until I decided to run," he told us. "Both sides have good ideas."

"I chose the Democratic side when I looked at issues of women's health, access to healthcare," he said. "I couldn't support legislation blocking women's access to health care. I'm closer to the Democrats."

We join Carmona in rejecting legislation that interferes with a woman's right to make, together with her medical professional, the most personal and private healthcare decisions.

Carmona is well-known to Southern Arizonans. He arrived in 1985 to direct our first regional trauma care system, and he's led the county hospital. He was a detective, department surgeon and SWAT team leader during his 25 years with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

In 2002 George W. Bush named him surgeon general and he's now vice chairman of Tucson's Canyon Ranch spa and resort and the CEO of Canyon Ranch Health.

This range of professional and public service experience builds on Carmona's personal background, leadership and passions.

He had a turbulent and challenging childhood. His parents struggled with drug abuse and alcoholism, and he was homeless for a time. He dropped out of high school, served in Vietnam, got into college through open enrollment and went to medical school on the GI Bill.

"A sign of a nation is its humanity," said Carmona. "Government invested in me. I don't call it an entitlement. I earned it."

Carmona told us his experience has helped in "understanding the complexity of society."

There is plenty of evidence that his experience also formed his compassion for those struggling, less fortunate and without a voice in the political process.

He sees issues from different points of view and comes to a common-sense solution, rather than be guided by a political ideology.

He challenges the status quo and expects to be challenged.

Arizona will benefit from Carmona's practical approach and from his deep interest in making government more effective and reflective of our difficult economic times.

Consequently, rather than subscribe to the government-is-the-problem mantra popular today, we believe he will focus on issues where the federal government intersects with local priorities.

In Southern Arizona that means how national priorities like immigration reform and energy policies affect our people and our economy. But it also encompasses regionally important projects, such as the Central Arizona Project irrigation system.

"I think it's part of my job to advocate" for Arizona, Carmona said. "I call that investment."

He says he can and will ask tough questions and continuously expand his knowledge central to ensuring the path to a more prosperous America.

For the first time in 18 years Arizonans will send a new voice to the Senate. We believe that voice should be Richard Carmona's. The Star endorses him for Senate.

Arizona Daily Star