(PHOENIX) — Senate ads have been dark and foreboding, if often boilerplate. But Arizona’s Senate race has swiftly become one of the most intense and personal in the country, thanks to two new TV ads released last week by Republican Rep. Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona, who served as Surgeon General during the George W. Bush administration.
Rep. Flake’s campaign struck first. Cristina Beato, a senior Health and Human Services official during the Bush years, appeared in a TV ad in which she accused Carmona of knocking loudly on her door late at night when she was his boss.
“There was an angry pounding on the door in the middle of the night. I’m a single mom. I feared for my kids and for myself,” Beato says in the ad. “It was Richard Carmona, and I was his boss. Carmona is not who he seems. He has issues with anger, with ethics, and with women. I have testified to this under oath to Congress. Richard Carmona, should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate.”
Beato, who served as Acting Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary under Bush, told congressional investigators in 2007 that Carmona was an “extremely angry” person and a “living nightmare” to work with, Politico first reported in May. Beato alleged two episodes in which Carmona had banged on her door, attempting to confront her over an issue on which they disagreed, Politico reported.
Carmona’s campaign denies the incident took place.
Beato made the accusations as Carmona testified that Bush health officials had politicized health issues, including the risks of tobacco. Politico reported that Carmona had accused her of “carrying water” for the Bush administration and that the two top health officials developed an intense rivalry. While Carmona wouldn’t name names in his congressional testimony, a half-dozen former HHS officials told The New York Times in 2007 that Beato was the one most likely to have interfered with health findings.
Carmona has responded with a TV ad featuring another of his former bosses. In it, former SWAT commander Kathleen Brennan, under whom Carmona served in Pima County, Ariz., for years, vouches for Carmona’s treatment of women and attacks Flake.
“When I see a career politician like Jeff Flake attacking Rich Carmona, who has spent his life helping others, it’s despicable. Congressman Flake should be ashamed,” Brennan says in the ad.
Carmona’s campaign has not only denied the episode — “Never happened,” spokesman Andy Barr said — but has suggested that Beato has a history of lying. The campaign points to her stalled confirmation by a Democratic Senate amidst accusations that she fabricated parts of her resume, and to questions over Beato’s credibility raised by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who chaired the committee to which both Beato and Carmona testified.
Jennifer Cabe, who served as Carmona’s communications director when he was Surgeon General, vouched for Carmona and accused Beato of lying at a press conference on Friday.
“I know these accusations are 100 percent false,” Cabe said, while Beato stood by her story and two former Bush officials praised her credibility in interviews with The Arizona Republic.
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