In their first debate, Arizona Senate hopeful Rep. Jeff Flake and his Democratic counterpart Richard Carmona moved to the middle politically and sought to separate themselves from their own parties.
Carmona, who is running at a disadvantage in a state where Republicans boast a seven-point voter registration advantage and President Barack Obama runs an average of 7.3 percentage points behind Romney, according to RealClearPolitics, was quick to distance himself from Democrats.
“I’m not here to defend the Obama administration,” he said. “I’ve been an independent my whole life.”
Later in the debate, when the former surgeon general was asked whether he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care law, Carmona said he would not have.
“I wouldn’t have voted for it the way it was,” he said. Carmona later said that the single-payer option would not work, when asked if he would have voted for the health care law if that option had remained.
Flake criticized Carmona, saying he had shifted positions on the issue. At a meeting of the Arizona Democratic Party in January, Carmona said, “Yes, I support it,” when asked for his feelings on the law. However, he went on to say that, though he was “100 percent” behind universal health care, “the execution was a little problematic.”
However, Flake was also somewhat reluctant to embrace certain elements of his own party. Asked if, as a senator, he would sign Grover Norquist’s pledge not to vote for any tax increases, Flake said he would not.
“The only pledge I will sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges,” said Flake, even though he had signed the pledge at the beginning of his most recent term in Congress.
A spokesman for Flake did not respond to questions about what had sparked the change.
When asked if he was a member of the tea party, Flake responded simply, “No.” He said he agreed with only “some” of the tea party’s positions, but added that he was proud to have their support.