The Star invited Arizona's three U.S. Senate candidates to answer that question, based on the following background:
Since this Senate seat was last open in 2006, the percentage of Arizonans who are registered independents has increased by 360,322 voters, or 54 percent. That compares with growth of 176,945 voters, or 9 percent, for all parties combined. There are now 1 million Arizona voters who identify with no party and 2 million who are party-affiliated.
How do you explain this trend toward rejection of organized political parties?
This is the last of three Sundays of guest commentaries by the Senate candidates. You can read previous stories at azstarnet.com/opinion
I'm a lifelong independent, so it makes perfect sense to me that more Arizonans are choosing to not align with either party.
I've always identified myself as an independent not because I dislike Democrats or Republicans. I'm an independent because I've seen selfless leaders and thoughtful policy from both parties - along with senseless partisanship and disappointing pettiness.
I don't buy into the artificial political bipolarity in which everyone is supposed to be one thing or the other. I don't think anybody is a perfect fit in either party - I certainly know I'm not.
We have to get past this senseless standard of evaluating leadership by buzzwords. Are you pro-choice or pro-life? Pro-environment or pro-business? How about the Second Amendment, are you pro or con?
Well, I can believe women have the right to choose their health-care options and still want to reduce the number of abortions. I can encourage business development and protect sensitive environments. And I can support Second Amendment rights and own a gun while still thinking it's a bad idea to arm college students.
The reason I identify as an independent - and why so many Arizonans do the same - is that our bipolar political system is built on false choices.
Do I want leaders who agree with me? Of course. But more than that, I want sensible leadership and selfless service from people with a variety of life experiences that will make informed decisions.
Our political leadership should be driven by something greater than politics. That's a simple idea, but it's integral to our philosophical DNA as Americans. It's why we revere our veterans, firefighters and police officers - because we believe in the sanctity of service.
I had to pick a political party because unfortunately that's how our electoral system works. But the only pledge I've taken in this campaign is to serve Arizona to the best of my ability and to listen to good ideas, no matter where they come from.
I came from a humble background, but I've spent my life serving my country and our state as a soldier, cop and doctor. To me, selfless service for your country is the highest calling any of us can answer. And in return for my service, I've been rewarded many times over by opportunities provided by this great country.
As a U.S. senator, the only standard I'll judge myself by is whether my decisions are in the best interest of those I serve. If that doesn't fit a partisan agenda, that's not my problem.
Democrat Richard Carmona is vice chairman of Canyon Ranch Institute, a professor in the Arizona College of Public Health and a deputy Pima County sheriff.