Arizona’s Eighth District votes on replacement for Trent Franks after his resignation

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The Eighth District votes in primary on a replacement for Trent Franks who resigned after news about him offering a female staffer $5 million to be a surrogate mother was released.

The district is known to be Republican, with very few doubting that a Republican will continue to run this area. Twelve are running, but the focus is on Steve Montenegro and Debbie Lesko, followed by talk about Phil Lovas and Bob Stump. The Democrat candidates are Hiral Tipirneni and Brianna Westbrook. Mike O’Neil, with O’Neil Associates, breaks down the news surrounding each candidate.

Steve Montengro (R)

The former state legislature who had to resign because of the resign to run law has caused many heads to turn over the last couple weeks. Thousands of voters already turned in their ballots before finding out that Montenegro, a state senator at the time, was exchanging sexually suggestive messages with a junior staffer. However, he does have the endorsement of Trent Franks in his pocket. The endorsement and early ballots may help him now, but it’s doubtful to help him later.

“This stuff against Montenegro is going to stuck, but most of the votes were cast before that came out,” O’Neil says. “They presumed in August he would be a weaker candidate than he is now.”

Debbie Lesko (R)

Also having to resign as state senator to run, Lesko is no stranger to the seat. The argument revolving around Lesko is whether or not she is guilty of money laundering. Fellow runner Phil Lovas led the accusations claiming Lesko was pulling money from her legislative campaign and using it for her congressional campaign but not so directly. She set up a shell organization and donated the money to them. The organization then turned around and donated that money to a PAC that is in support of Lesko’s campaign for Congress.

“You can’t have done that without there having been coordination, and if there’s coordination, that’s illegal,” O’Neil says.

Related: Journalist Roundtable: Debbie Lesko’s campaign finances, Montenegro receiving nude photos, gun control

Phil Lovas (R)

Lovas’ biggest hurdle is being lost in the shuffle, O’Neil says. He’s more of a newcomer to the legislature than his two more talked about components. He had a a job within the Trump administration, so the ties to the president may be a point in his favor.

“He’s tried to wrap himself around Donald Trump as has all of the candidates on the Republican side,” O’Neil says.

Bob Stump (R)

Don’t confuse this Bob Stump with the other Bob Stump, the last Democrat to be elected in this district in 1980. The 2018 candidate wasn’t born with the name, but says he changed it because of his father. The name may confuse voters, but it’s an old charge. He has been elected to multiple offices under that name.

The two Democratic candidates aren’t discussed nearly as much as their counterparts. O’Neil didn’t have anything to say about them due to the fact that they aren’t the ones in the spotlight and under the microscope.

“The presumption is unless they nominate a completely flawed candidate, this is the Republican’s seat,” O’Neil says.

The results of the primary will be announced on Tuesday night after the polls close at 7 p.m.

Mike O’Neil: O’Neil Associates

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