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Flake is a social conservative on abortion and gay marriage, but he voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and has worked to liberalize immigration laws. He is definitely not a nativist when it comes to national immigration policy. “I have no sympathy for those who are running drugs or doing human smuggling or criminal activity but that’s a very small part of those who are simply coming here to make their lives better,” he says. “I think we ought to make sure we have a legal framework for them to come and work and then return home.”
Flake is strong on taxes and spending, with a 91 percent rating from the National Taxpayers Union. Flake has voted with libertarians on some civil liberties issues, though he is uncomfortable with the libertarian label and does not consider himself one. He has been critical of the PATRIOT Act, particularly the warrantless surveillance aspects, and has offered a variety of amendments to weaken it by requiring the head of the FBI to personally approve requests for library or bookstore records, allowing for recipients of national security letters to consult an attorney and challenge them in court, and putting a stop to judges preventing people from knowing about impending government searches of their homes. Flake has also pushed to end the trade embargo with and ban on travel to Cuba.
The strikes against Flake are serious: his initial votes for the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War. Still, Flake has the potential to pull the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate in a more libertarian direction. But only after he faces the toughest challenge of his political career, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
Arizona may be a red state but it’s also a magnet for people looking to escape heavily regulated and taxed blue states such as California. Carmona, a retired vice admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, excites Democrats because of his Hispanic background and his bipartisan appeal as an appointee of George W. Bush. Unlike Flake, Carmona did not face any primary challengers, allowing him to steadily raise money while focusing on the general election. Every poll has shown Flake with a lead, but an ugly Republican primary against Will Cardon, a wealthy businessman, has had an impact on his favorability and has some local Republicans worried.
U.S. Senate, Rhode Island
People often point to Massachusetts as the most perfect exemplar of a one-party state, but that’s because they often overlook its tiny, densely populated neighbor to the south, Rhode Island. The nation’s smallest state is very much like Massachusetts, with its Puritan settlers, ethnic Catholic immigrants, love for baseball, and strong accents. And the mostly one-party rule of Rhode Island is similar, too, with moderate Republicans or former Republicans occupying the governor’s office for nearly two decades even while Democrats have held large majorities in the legislature. It’s not exactly a breeding ground for small-government types.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Barry Hinckley is a Rhode Island businessman, so he’s familiar with the awful climate for business and innovation. (In its annual rankings for 2012, CNBC listed Rhode Island as the worst state for business in the country.) Hinckley got his start in the Ocean State working in his family’s shipbuilding business, but he eventually left the industry and moved to Massachusetts where he started his own software company in 1999. In June, Hinckley sold his stake in the firm, Bullhorn Software, for an undisclosed amount; in various news reports he has said he made out “very well.” Since 2010 Hinckley has co-hosted a libertarian Internet radio program called Revolution Radio.
Hinckley says he shares the values of the American Founders, whom he considers libertarian. While he lived in Massachusetts, he says, he was registered as a member of the Libertarian Party “for years,” walking away from the Republican Party when George W. Bush was in office. He credits the Bush years for leading him to explore the ideas of limited government. “The Republicans are too socially conservative and the Democrats are too fiscally liberal,” he says. When Ron Paul visited the state in 2012, Hinckley was the one who introduced him at the University of Rhode Island. “I consider Ron Paul the grandfather of political honesty,” he said.
Hinckley says the war on drugs has been a total failure. “I think marijuana should be legalized. I am not a big fan of legalizing all hard drugs but at the same time these people shouldn’t be put in jail for life. If you’re going to willingly do harm to your body the government shouldn’t pay for it. That includes unhealthy foods and tobacco as well.”
Hinckley supports gay marriage, is pro-choice, and is a strong defender of the Second Amendment, but insists his main focus is on fiscal matters. He would, among other things, repeal the income tax. “I used to like the fair tax and I am not a supporter of the flat tax. We have to get rid of the entire tax code and start over. The income tax is incredibly regressive, it punishes labor,” he says.
Hinckley has a mountain to climb if he is to be successful in his challenge to incumbent Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Cook rates the race as “solid Democratic,” and Hinckley’s fundraising has been disappointing. Aside from the Republican Liberty Caucus, national groups that could dive in and spend heavily are not actively engaged in the race. Hinckley reportedly has the ability to self-fund his campaign but that would only go so far, since his roots in the state are nowhere near as deep as the incumbent’s.
U.S. Senate, Minnesota