Republicans Look To Avoid Upset In Arizona Special Election

Arizona election is another Republican test in Trump country

Republican Debbie Lesko won a special election for an Arizona House seat Tuesday. Lesko looks like she's going to do about 20 percentage points worse than that.

Lesko is the odds-on favorite to win the seat but it's been a tougher campaign than most had imagined.

On Saturday, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) told volunteers at Lesko's canvass launch that national liberals were using the special election to "radicalize" their base and raise money.

Lesko and Tipirneni are competing in a special election to replace former Rep. Trent Franks in Arizona's 8th District, who resigned in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. Lesko will serve out the remainder of Franks's term.

Lesko and Tipirneni are likely to headed for a face off in the November Congressional elections. Making a push for older voters, she had said Lesko would vote to go after entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. She said she wasn't shocked to see her close to Lesko, despite the big GOP advantage in the district, saying people were ready for a change. "Twenty-five years ago I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamt in a million years that I would be running for Congress to be a congresswoman".

"I like that she's not flashy", the 72-year-old said.

"Something is happening here".

Democrats didn't think they would win the race.

"Whatever happens tonight or tomorrow, we're not giving up".

In the days leading up to the election, members of the state's Democratic party told ThinkProgress that they considered her campaign as both a success as well a good sign for the upcoming midterms, regardless of the outcome.

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The Democratic Party hoped to continue a streak of surprising special election wins, which had been present in places like Alabama, Pennsylvania and other Republican strongholds, but were not able to do so in Arizona. Groups including the Republican National Committee; the National Republican Congressional Committee; and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, spent a combined more than $1 million for the GOP nominee.

National Democrats, however, stayed away from the race, deducing that a district that has sent only Republicans to Congress for four decades was out of reach. "The NRCC was proud to assist her and our focused and early investments proved to be a distinction maker within the race".

President Trump won the district in 2016 by 21 points.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said about 19,000 voters had turned out to the 55 voting locations on Tuesday and more than 155,000 people participated in early voting. Polls showed the race anywhere from a statistical dead heat to Lesko ahead by 10 points.

The district, located in the western suburbs of Phoenix, is known for its Sun City retirement community and for permitting golf carts to drive on the streets. She played up her support for Trump and his agenda.

Republicans are hopeful about avoiding another special election upset in Arizona on Tuesday.

Trump urged a strong Republican turnout for Lesko in a Tuesday tweet.

Richard Herrera, an Arizona State University associate professor of political science, said Tipirneni posted a strong showing, given the district's lopsided partisan breakdown.

Lesko's victory only gives her the seat for the remainder of this year.

Even a close loss would bolster Democratic momentum heading into November's midterm elections, when the party must pick up 23 seats nationally to reclaim control of the House of Representatives and two seats to regain a majority in the Senate. She will complete his term, which expires in January, and run for a full two-year term of her own in the fall elections.

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