Faced with an uphill campaign against a primary opponent handpicked by the president and backed by the national Democratic establishment, Don Bivens on Wednesday dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, clearing the field for former Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
Bivens, an attorney and former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the continuation of his campaign would have diminished the party’s chances of winning the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, considered by some observers to be one of the Democrats’ few pickup opportunities in the Senate this cycle.
“The continuing head-to-head competition of our Democratic primary is draining resources that we will need as a party win the U.S. Senate race,” Bivens said. “My overriding commitment has always been to Democratic principles first – the cause of middle-class families. My stepping aside in the Senate race at this point in no way diminishes my family’s fight to work for these common goals, now and in the future.”
Bivens, who entered the race months before Carmona announced his candidacy, no doubt faced tremendous pressure from the Democratic establishment to get out of the primary. Carmona was recruited into the race personally by President Barack Obama, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which usually stays neutral in primaries, threw its support, as well as its fundraising network, behind him.
Carmona praised Bivens as a “cornerstone of the Arizona Democratic Party.”
“An agent of change for our state, Don knew how great of an opportunity we have to win this seat and knew that it would take a strong and united effort to do so. He and his team ran a strong race that showed a great deal of respect for the nominating process which in turn has improved our party’s chance of success in November,” Carmona said on his campaign’s Facebook page.
U. S. Sen. Patty Murray, who chairs the DSCC, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Bivens as well.
“Don Bivens is a greater leader in our party,” Reid said. He has an impressive record as a businessman and public servant, and his campaign was focused on the issues that matter most to the middle class. I am hearted that Don has decided to focus his time and energy on reelecting the president and helping Democrats succeed in Arizona up and down the ballot.”
Carmona, who raised an impressive $570,000 in the first six weeks of his campaign, can now conserve money and resources for the general election, while the Republicans continue to slug it out in the primary. Congressman Jeff Flake, the frontrunner on the GOP side, is facing Wil Cardon, a Mesa businessman who is largely self-funding his campaign.
Bivens did not say whether he would endorse Carmona, whose commitment to Democratic values and principles he repeatedly questioned during the campaign. Carmona was a lifelong independent who served under Republican President George W. Bush, and didn’t register as a Democrat until he got into the Senate race.