Republican Candidate Wins Open Arizona Congressional Seat

But that doesn’t mean the end of the Blue Wave.

Republican candidate and former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko, right, celebrates with former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer after election results were announced for the Congressional District 8 seat during a campaign party at Lesko's home, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. Ralph Freso/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

With the backing of President Trump, former Republican state senator Debbie Lesko won a special election Tuesday to fill a House seat vacated by Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned last year amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

Lesko beat political novice Hiral Tipirneni with 53 percent of the votes in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, an area that covers Phoenix’s northwest suburbs and traditionally skews conservative—Trump won the district by 21 percentage points in 2016.

Tipirneni got 47 percent of votes.

“This is so awesome,” Lesko said, shortly after unofficial results were announced. “It’s overwhelming.”

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted his support of Lesko. 

Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in the district by 19 percent, according to the Arizona Secretary of State. But, bolstered by Connor Lamb’s upset last month in Pennsylvania, Democrats had been hoping Tipirneni’s story as a first-generation immigrant who became a physician and her affordable health care platform would create similar results in the red district.

Unlike Lamb’s Pennsylvania constituency, the Arizona district is known for its sleepy retirement communities—roughly a quarter of residents are over 60—and its voters’ devotion to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to FiveThirtyEight. Republican Rep. Franks, who stepped down in December after reports that he offered a staffer $5 million to carry his child, ran unopposed in 2014 and 2016.

Democrats in the district rely on minority voters for wins—the group that is least likely to turn out for off-year elections. 

But Lesko’s win isn’t necessarily an indication of an end to a nationwide Blue Wave. 

Democrats outperformed Republicans in the red-leaning district by 19 percentage points, based on FiveThirtyEight’s analysis that the district leans red by 25 percentage points. That’s on par with the national average—17 percentage points—since Trump’s inauguration, according to FiveThirtyEight. The margin is in spite of a last-minute influx of about $1 million into the race from outside GOP groups, and a robocall in which Trump warned Tipirneni’s victory would mean, “illegal immigrants will pour right over your border.”

The relatively close race may even position Democrats to better challenge Republicans in November. Democrats have plans to flip at least one Arizona chamber and Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) U.S. Senate seat. One senior Democratic Party official told CNN earlier this month that they saw the special election “as a test run of how we are going to gear up for 2018.”

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate