Debbie Lesko won the Eighth Congressional District Republican Primary on Tuesday, beating runner ups Phil Lovas and Steve Montenegro by over 8,000 votes.
“We have a new congresswoman, and she earned it,” Stan Barnes, president of Copper State Consulting, says. “There was a flavor of Republican for every kind of voter in that district. She had more money, she worked harder, she had more name ID, and more of a built in constituency than the others. She got a few breaks but that’s politics.”
Lesko is a voter favorite in Sun City, which is an area that turns out in huge proportions. Political Consultant Chris Herstam points out that if you combined the votes the number two and three gained in Sun City, Lesko would still have them beat.
It was expected to be a close race between Lesko and Montenegro. The latter had news recently revealed that he was sending and receiving sexually suggestive messages with a junior staffer. At the time of the news, thousands of early ballots had already been turned in which seemed favorable for him. However, he fell to third place in the race.
“[Even without the news on Montenegro] this was still Debbie’s race,” Barnes says. “She still would’ve won. I think it made the difference between the number two spot Lovas claimed and the number three spot.”
Lesko was also in the hot seat while Lovas started accusing her of money laundering. She was having her legislative campaign money be transferred into a PAC that donated the same money to her congressional campaign. It would only be deemed illegal if it was an organized act. Lesko hasn’t been charged with money laundering at this point.
Barnes is a believer in Lesko, saying he sees her having a long and sustained career in her district while having earned it the whole way.
With the conservative nature of this district, it’s likely that Lesko will beat the Democrat primary winner Hiral Tipirneni and fill Trent Franks’ vacated congressional seat. Herstam says it was in Lesko’s favor to be the only woman in a field where she was only running against men, because he says the woman usually does well in that scenario.
Tipirneni, an emergency physician, has her act together, Herstam says. He continues saying that she ran a good campaign, and she’s as good of a candidate that the Democrats could’ve hoped for. Despite this district being extremely conservative, Herstam says if there was ever going to be an upset in that district, Tipirneni could provide it. Barnes isn’t as hopeful for the Democrat candidate, but says she could fare well in other areas of the state.
TED SIMONS: CINDY MCCAIN ALSO SAID THAT THE SENATOR IS, QUOTE, "DOING OK," AS HE CONTINUES TREATMENT FOR AN AGRESSIVE FORM OF BRAIN CANCER. AND THE SPECIAL GENERAL ELECTION TO REPLACE FORMER CONGRESSMAN TRENT FRANKS IS SET: IT WILL BE REPUBLICAN DEBBIE LESKO AGAINST DEMOCRAT HIRAL TIPIRNENI. JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT LAST NIGHT'S VOTE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE APRIL 24TH GENERAL ELECTION. STAN BARNES, PRESIDENT OF COPPER STATE CONSULTING GROUP, AND CHRIS HERSTAM OF LEWIS, ROCA, ROTHGERBER AND CHRISTIE. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. ALL RIGHT LETS START WITH THE REPUBLICANS, DEBBIE LESKO’S NOT EVEN CLOSE. WHAT HAPPENED HERE?
STAN BARNES: WE HAVE A NEW CONGRESS WOMAN AND SHE EARNED IT. THERE WAS A FLAVOR OF REPUBLICAN FOR ANY KIND OF VOTER IN THAT DISTRICT. THERE WAS A LOT TO CHOOSE FROM. SOME HAD MONEY, SOME HAD NAME I.D., A FEW WORKED HARD. SHE HAD MORE MONEY, WORKED HARDER, HAD MORE NAME I.D. AND HAD MORE OF A BUILT IN CONSTITUENCY THAN THE OTHERS. SHE ALSO GOT A FEW BREAKS. THAT'S POLITICS. SHE REALLY DESERVES AN ACCOLADE FOR COMING THROUGH DECISIVELY IN THAT CROWD.
TED SIMONS: WHY WASN’T THIS ANY CLOSER? THERE WAS NO CONTEST HERE.
CHRIS HERSTAM: WELL DEBBIE LESKO HAD SUN CITY. THAT WAS HER LEGISLATIVE AREA. IT TURNS OUT IN TREMENDOUS PROPORTIONS. IN THE SUN CITY AREA, IF YOU TOOK THE NUMBER TWO AND THREE FINISHER AND COMBINED THEM TOGETHER, DEBBIE LESKO STILL BEAT THEIR COMBINED TOTAL. WHEN YOU ROLL LIKE THAT, IN THE SUN CITY AREA IN CD 8, YOU ARE GOING TO WIN.
TED SIMONS: DO WE SEE THAT OFTEN IN CONGRESSIONAL RACES WHERE SOMEONE WHOSE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT IS INSIDE THAT CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT EITHIER RUNS OR RUNS AND DOES WELL?
STAN BARNES: HISTORICALLY, WE DON'T. I'M LIVING PROOF OF IT. YOU HAVE TO GO BACK A LONG WAY, BUT YES, IT'S DIFFICULT FOR LEGISLATORS TO CONVERT TO FEDERAL OFFICE. ANDY BIGGS JUST DID IT IN HIS DISTRICT, BUT HE DID IT BY 32 VOTES OR SOMETHING. IT'S A HARD THING TO DO. MOST LEGISLATORS ARE NOT THAT WELL KNOWN AND THEIR DISTRICTS ARE A LOT SMALLER THAN A CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. AS CHRIS SAID, DEBBIE'S DISTRICT HAPPENS TO BE THE HIGHEST TURNOUT, HIGHEST EFFICACY REPUBLICAN VOTER, IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA. THEY KNOW HER. SHE EARNED THEIR RESPECT AND THEY CAME OUT FOR HER.
CHRIS HERSTAM: YOU KNOW SOMETHNG ELSE TED? EVEN REPUBLICAN FIELDS, WHEN YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN A GIGANTIC FIELD AND YOU ARE RUNNING AGAINST THAT MANY GENTLEMEN, THE WOMAN DOES VERY WELL.
TED SIMONS: THE WOMAN DOES VERY WELL ESPECIALLY WHEN ONE OF THE GENTLEMEN HAS A BIT OF A PROBLEM. LET'S TALK ABOUT STEVE MONTENEGRO. I MEAN, WHEN YOU GET THE EARLY BALLOTS IN FROM EARLY VOTING SHE WAS STILL TROUNCING HIM. DID IT MAKE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE THAT CONTROVERSY?
STAN BARNES: THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS THAT THIS WAS DEBBIE'S RACE. SHE STILL WOULD’VE WON. I THINK IT MADE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE NUMBER TWO SPOT MR. LOVIS CLAIMED AND THE NUMBER THREE SPOT. THE JOKE WAS THAT THE MINUTE SENATOR MONTENEGRO FIGURED OUT THAT THIS MIGHT BE PUBLIC, HE MADE A PHONE CALL TO MICHELE REAGAN AND SAID HOW MANY BALLOTS ARE IN ALREADY? THAT WAS THE DENOMINATOR OF THE WHOLE EPISODE.AND HE STILL MANAGED TO HANG ON AND SHOW PRETTY WELL BECAUSE HE WAS A POPULAR CANIDATE WHO KNEW HIS DISTRICT. BUT IT WAS REALLY BAD TIMING.
TED SIMONS: YET HE HAD ENDORSEMENT FROM TRENT FRANKS, JOE ARPAIO, TED CRUZ. THESE ARE RELATIVELY HIGH PROFILE ENDORSEMENTS. NO TRACTION HERE.
CHRIS HERSTAM: NO. TO HAVE AN ENDORSEMENT FROM THE DISGRACED TRENT FRANKS, WHO HE WORKED FOR, AND THAT DIDN'T HELP HIM ANY. THAT WAS RIDICULOUS. CLEARLY, HE WAS NOT OPERATING IN THE REAL WORLD, MONTENEGRO. I THINK STAN'S RIGHT. THE SEXUAL TEXTING SITUATION JUST COST MONTENEGRO SECOND PLACE. LESKO, I THOUGHT LESKO WAS GOING TO WIN THAT RACE FROM DAY ONE. BEFORE SHE EVEN ANNOUNCED, WHEN THE RUMORS WERE JUST THERE, SHE WAS THE ONE TO BEAT.
STAN BARNES: I SAW LAST NIGHT, FORMER GOVERNOR JAN BREWER STANDING WITH DEBBIE LESKO. IF THERE’S ANYONE THAT KNOWS HOW TO WIN THAT AREA IT’S JAN BREWER. SHE USED TO BE WHAT WE CALLED THE UNOFFICAL MAYOR OF SUN CITY, JAN BREWER. AND I SEE THAT IN DEBBIE LESKO. I THINK DEBBIE IS GOING TO HAVE A LONG, SUSTAINED, POPULAR CAREER IN THAT PARTICULAR DISTRICT. AND SHE WILL HAVE EARNED IT THE WHOLE WAY. SHE IS A TIRELESS CHAMPION OF HER CONSTITUENTS.
CHRIS HERSTAM: THERE WAS ONE WARNING SIGNAL FROM THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RESULTS AND THAT IS IF YOU ARE A SITTING CORPORATION COMMISSIONER, YOU MAY NOT WANT TO RUN FOR OTHER OFFICES.
TED SIMONS: YOU’RE SUGGESTING BOB STUMP. HE HAD 5%. WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?
CHRIS HERSTAM: ONLY 5%. IT WAS PRETTY PATHETIC. I JUST DON'T THINK YOU GET MUCH POPULARITY SERVING AS A CORPORATION COMMISSION RAISING PEOPLE’S ELECTRIC RATES.
TED SIMONS: WHAT ABOUT THE NAME THING THOUGH STAN?
STAN BARNES: WE HAVE WONDERED, WE BEING THE CROWS SITTING ON THE FENCE WATCHING THE LEGISLATURE, SINCE BOB STUMP BECAME A MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE AND FIRST SURFACED THERE AS A POLITICAL GUY. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THAT NAME, BOB STUMP? IT MEANS A LOT TO ME AND TO YOU, AND TO YOU. BUT IT DIDN'T TRANSLATE IN THIS ELECTION. HE DIDN'T HAVE THE RESOURCES, THAT’S ONE THING, AND WHEN HE MADE THE NEWS, IT WAS IN A NEGATIVE MANNER ALL WRAPPED UP IN HIS NAME. IT’S UNFORTUNATE.
CHRIS HERSTAM: AND WE’VE GOT TO REMEMBER THE WIDOW OF THE REAL BOB, CONGRESSMAN BOB STUMP, CAME OUT AND BLASTED HIM EARLY BEFORE THE EARLY BALLOTING WENT IN.
TED SIMONS: HIS MOM CAME OUT AND SAID HE’S ALWAYS BEEN BOB STUMP TO ME. THAT’S A LITTLE ODD THERE. THAT WAS BEFORE OTHER ODD THINGS HAPPENED.
CHRIS HERSTAM: THAT CAME BACK TO BITE HIM, BUT I THINK THAT HE COULDN'T GET ANY TRACTION AS A FORMER CORPORATION COMMISIONER.
TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATS, HIRAL TIPIRNENI WINS BIG OVER A PROGRESSIVE CANIDATE. WAS THAT A SURPRISE AT ALL?
CHRIS HERSTAM: NO, BECAUSE DR. TIPIRNENI., EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, HAS GOT HER ACT TOGETHER. SHE RUNS A GOOD CAMPAIGN. SHE'S BRIGHT, ARTICULATE. IT'S A TOUGH ROAD FOR HER IN THAT VERY CONSERVATIVE REPUBLIC DISTRICT. BUT I WILL TELL YOU, SHE'S AS GOOD A CANDIDATE AS THE DEMOCRATS COULD HAVE HOPED FOR. SHE WILL WORK HARD. THERE ARE THREE MORE ELECTIONS THIS YEAR, IN THAT RACE. HER NAME ID WILL ACTUALLY START GOING UP. IF THERE HAPPENS TO BE THIS BLUE WAVE AND THE DONALD TRUMP INDICTMENTS CONTINUE FROM BOB MUELLER, IF THERE WAS EVER GOING TO BE AN UPSET IN THAT SAFE REPUBLICAN DISTRICT, DR. TIPIRNENI COULD PROVIDE IT.
STAN BARNES: I HEAR NOTHING BUT GREAT THINGS ABOUT HER, BUT IT IS WISHFUL THINKING ON CHRIS’S PART BECAUSE OF THE LOPSIDED NATURE OF THAT DISTRICT. NOT ONLY IN REGISTRATION, HEAVILY REPUBLICAN, BUT ALSO IN ITS GENERAL POLITICS. IT IS A CENTER RIGHT DISTRICT.
TED SIMONS: COULD THIS RACE BE PREPARATION FOR SOMETHING ELSE FOR DR. TIPIRNENI?
STAN BARNES: I HOPE IT IS. BECAUSE EVERYTHING I HEAR ABOUT HER IS WONDERFUL AND CREDIBLE, AND WE NEED WONDERFUL CREDIBLE PEOPLE TO DARE COME INTO THE PUBLIC SPACE. THE FACT THAT SHE’S DOING IT IS A CREDIT TO HER.
TED SIMONS: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT, MAYBE PREPARATION FOR A STATE RACE OR SOMETHING ALONG THOSE LINES?
CHRIS HERSTAM: THAT’S POSSIBLE.
TED SIMONS: FORTIFYING THE BENCH FOR THE DEMOCRATS.
CHRIS HERSTAM: THAT'S TRUE. FOR ANOTHER STATEWIDE RACE MAYBE OR EVEN A LEGISLATIVE RACE THAT ISN’T SO SOLID.
STAN BARNES: AND HER NAME, SHE HAS TO CONVERT THAT INTO A POSITIVE. MOST PEOPLE CAN'T SPELL IT. A LOT OF PEOPLE CAN'T PRONOUNCE IT. IT'S UNFAIR, BUT IN POLITICS THAT MATTERS. SHE’S GOING TO NEED TO GET OVER THAT.
CHRIS HERSTAM: SHE WILL BE KNOWN AFTER THIS MANY ELECTIONS THIS YEAR, SHE WILL BE KNOWN AS THE DOCTOR, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN. I THINK SHE WILL RUN STRONGER THAN PEOPLE THINK.
TED SIMONS: I ONLY HAVE TIME FOR YES OR NO. ARE WE GOING TO SEE THE SAME CAST OF CHARACTERS ON THE REPUBLIC SIDE IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, THE ACTUAL ELECTION, AS OPPOSED TO THE SPECIAL ELECTION?
STAN BARNES: NO. IT’LL BE JUST DEBBIE. SHE WILL BE THE INCUMBENT AND OWN THE SPACE.
TED SIMONS: DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?
CHRIS HERSTAM: I AGREE WITH IT. THERE WILL BE A FEW THAT THROW THEIR HAT IN THE RING, BUT LESKO HAS PRETTY MUCH CLEARED THE FIELD.
TED SIMONS: COMING UP, WHY REPUBLICAN LEGISLATIVE LEADERS WANT TO CHANGE THE ORGANIZATION THAT DRAWS THE STATE'S CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE MAPS.
Stan Barnes: President, Copper State Consulting
Chris Herstam: Political Consultant