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.