In Arizona, the epicenter of the country's immigration debate, the Hispanic vote will be key for the aspirations of Richard Carmona to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.

Carmona, who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, has had a long career in public service both inside and outside Arizona.

After serving in the military in Vietnam, he earned a medical degree and settled in Arizona, where he returned after serving as U.S. surgeon general for four years during the George W. Bush administration.

"Carmona was a big surprise. When he announced his candidacy very few people believed that a Democrat could challenge a Republican candidate so well known in Arizona," Richard Herrera, a political science professor at Arizona State University, told Efe.

The Hispanic candidate will face off at the polls against Republican Jeff Flake, an Arizona lawmaker since 2003.

Herrera says that Carmona has run an excellent campaign that has managed to attract the support of independent voters.

The latest polls show Carmona and Flake practically tied.

"We're less than a week from the election and the contest is quite close," said the professor.

He added that Carmona's campaign has also been a surprise in a state as conservative as Arizona.

Herrera said that being Latino has been a factor in Carmona's favor since he has attracted the attention of the community.

"He has activated an important segment of the Democratic Party. I'm convinced that if the Latino voter goes to the polls in greater numbers than in the 2008 elections, that could be the decisive factor for Carmona's contest," the professor emphasized. EFE