- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2011

Former state party Chairman Don Bivens became the first Democrat to enter the 2012 Arizona Senate race Monday, a move that may indicate that the waiting period for recuperating Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is over.

Until now, no Democrat had entered the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl out of deference to Mrs. Giffords, the Democratic congresswoman who was shot in January at a Tucson constituent meet-and-greet. Meanwhile, four candidates have entered the Republican primary.

That the well-connected Mr. Bivens has announced his candidacy means that the Giffords camp has likely sent a signal, said Arizona political analyst Michael O’Neil. Mrs. Giffords was widely considered a top contender for the Senate nomination before she was shot.

Bivens is politically connected to the Democratic establishment, and if he gets in, that says to me that the Giffords people have given him the green light or indicated somehow that she’s not getting into the race,” said Mr. O’Neil.

Now undergoing rehabilitation in Houston, Mrs. Giffords was viewed as the prohibitive favorite among potential Senate candidates, thanks in part to the huge outpouring of public sympathy after the shooting.

In announcing his candidacy, Mr. Bivens, 51, insisted he was “not a politician,” and that neither party has a lock on good ideas. A lawyer, he said he would work to find consensus in Washington, a prominent early theme among candidates in the 2012 campaign nationwide.

“In my career, I work every day with people who walk into a room with emotionally charged, diametrically opposed positions, and walk out with agreed-upon, common-sense solutions,” said Mr. Bivens in his video announcement. “We should expect the same skills from our elected officials.”

The next shoe to drop may be that of Dr. Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general and a friend of the congresswoman who is being urged to run by national Democrats.

The Republican primary features Rep. Jeff Flake, investment manager Wil Cardon, former Youngstown mayor Bryan Hackbarth, and general contractor Doug McKee. So far Mr. Flake, a five-term congressman with a national reputation as a fiscal conservative, is considered the front-runner, although he could face a challenge from the millionaire Mr. Cardon.

Mr. Flake issued a statement after the Bivens announcement, saying, “If the Democrats indeed put forth a liberal lawyer and former party chairman, the voters will have a clear choice come November.”

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