In Arizona, Democrats Bet On an Action Hero

PHOTO: U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona discusses influenza outbreaks and containment issues at the Hawaii Pandemic Flu Summit in this April 25, 2006 file photo.

All eyes are on Arizona ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary, but there's another, non-presidential race in the Grand Canyon State that could matter. This one features Democrats.

Republican senator John Kyl is retiring after his third term, and the race for his seat signifies Democrats' most ambitious, yet plausible, attempt to pick up a GOP-held Senate seat.

The Democratic party establishment's favored candidate was personally handpicked and recruited by President Obama. Plus, he was surgeon general under President George W. Bush, and he's a political independent running as a Democrat for the first time.

Dr. Richard Carmona will likely face off against anti-earmark-crusading U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R) in the general election. But the primary competitors in this race, former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens and Republican businessman Wil Cardon, are strong.

The Most Interesting Senate Candidate in the World?

The son of Puerto Rican parents, Carmona served as a special forces medic in Vietnam and earned two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. After his return, Carmona joined the Pima County Sheriff's Department as a deputy, serving as a SWAT team leader, while also practicing as a surgeon.

In 1992, Carmona rescued a man from a cliff in the snowy Pinaleno Mountains, rappelling down a 75-foot line from a helicopter.

He was serving as head of the Tucson Medical Center trauma unit at the time.

In 1999, while Carmona was off-duty from his sheriff's deputy service, he saw a traffic accident in Tucson and stopped to offer medical assistance. One of the drivers shot at him and the bullet grazed his head. Carmona shot back and killed the man. It was later discovered that the man was mentally unstable and wanted for murder.

Sounds a little like Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World," no?

Carmona hasn't always been cast in such a positive light. Upon his nomination for U.S. surgeon general, a 2002 Los Angeles Times story portrayed Carmona as belligerent and difficult to work with, digging into his tenure at Tucson Medical Center.

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