Richard Carmona, and Chuck Schumer’s dream of winning Arizona

Chuck Schumer. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Chuck Schumer isn't among the many hopeful Democrats quoted in this morning's front-page Washington Post profile of Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general to George Bush, who is currently running (as a Democrat) for Senate in Arizona.

But capturing Arizona has long been a dream of Schumer, who invested heavily in trying to unseat Republican incumbent Jon Kyl in 2006, when he headed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

With Kyl retiring this year, and Democrats feeling emboldened on the issue of immigration, Schumer has been eager to talk up Carmona's candidacy.

In a recent interview about the national Senate map, Schumer singled out Carmona as "a really great candidate, who comes from the South Bronx originally, as you know."

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He paused.

"Do you know?" he asked, before rattling off Carmona's biography.

"His parents were drug addicts in a housing project in the south Bronx, he went into the army, came back, found a mentor at Bronx Community College, who straightened him out," Schumer said.

Carmona then went to medical school, served under Bush and, according to the Post story, was heavily recruited by Republicans to run for office, but chose to run for the Senate as a Democrat after having been personally recruited by President Obama.

On the eve of the 2006 election, Schumer called Arizona "the sleeper," after the Democratic candidate, Jim Pederson, narrowed the gap to single digits.

But even with the heavy anti-Bush sentiment that toppled incumbents in swing states, and swept Democrats into control of the upper chamber, Kyl prevailed by 10 points, with 53 percent of the vote.

The Republicans are confident of their odds this year, with Rep. Jeff Flake, a well-known incumbent, running to succeed Kyl. But Schumer thinks the combination of Republicans' talk tough on immigration and a qualified Latino candidate could add up to a Democratic upset.

"The big change in Arizona is the Hispanic community is well aware of the sort of anti-immigration, strongly virulent and oftentimes nasty anti-immigration attitude of just about every Republican candidate," Schumer said.

"They're each trying to do outdo each other on who can be tougher on immigrants. And Arizona is the second-highest Hispanic vote in the country," he said. "So that's a good one."