Republican candidate for Congressional District 8 Debbie Lesko believes she has the best chance of winning, but she’s not taking anything for granted.
A recent poll from Emerson College showed the Democrat candidate Hiral Tipirneni winning by one percent. Many other polls are showing Lesko winning by even double digits in the highly Republican district.
“I think we saw with President Trump’s election is that the polls weren’t always accurate,” Lesko says.
The polls for the special election close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24. Two thirds of the ballots were turned in early with Republicans composing nearly half of those votes and Democrats only a little over a quarter.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Lesko says. “We’re a Republican district and the returns coming back look good for Republicans… It looks good, but I don’t take anything for granted. This is the way it always is. When one party is in control the other party wants to take back control. The Democrats are very motivated.”
Related: Hiral Tipirneni explains why she can win heavily Republican District 8
Last week Lesko was in D.C., where she received public support from Speaker Paul Ryan. Many other Republicans, including the previous incumbent for the Congressional chair in District 8, Trent Franks, have endorsed Lesko. Ryan’s support has raised some eyebrows as the Speaker is known for supporting limits on Social Security and Medicare.
“I’m comfortable with anyone who wants to come out and support me,” Lesko says. “I’m certainly going to protect Social Security and Medicare… I think we need to protect Social Security and Medicare for the people who are relying on it and for the people who are close to that age of relying on it as well.”
Lesko says she would consider creating a pension reform like she did for firefighters and police officers. She says with just a few tweaks, they were able to save a lot of money in the long term. Instead of cracking down on Social Security and Medicare, she says she would look into how to stop the fraudulent sale of food stamps.
Rather than healthcare for all, Lesko says she believes that everyone should have access to healthcare and that this is one of the topics that separates her from her opponent. Tipirneni has talked about her belief in a public option for healthcare.
“I certainly don’t agree with my opponent in having Medicare for all or a buy-in or whatever she wants to call it,” Lesko says. “I believe in free market healthcare.”
Lesko says she believes in free markets and limited governments, but not socialized medicine which is what she says her opponent is advocating. Tipirneni has denied that in the past.
Having been involved in the West Valley for the last 20 years, both as a resident and as a politician, Lesko says she understands the district and what they need. She says she shares the values of the conservative population in the district.
TED SIMONS: THE SPECIAL ELECTION IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT-8 IS SET FOR TOMORROW, WITH REPUBLICAN DEBBIE LESKO: THE FAVORITE AGAINST DEMOCRAT HIRAL TIPIRNENI, BUT SOME POLLS SHOW THAT THE RACE COULD BE TIGHTENING UP. WE SPOKE WITH HIRAL TIPIRNENI LAST WEEK. TONIGHT, WE HEAR FROM DEBBIE LESKO.
TED SIMONS: THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."
DEBBIE LESKO: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
TED SIMONS: WELL, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. LET'S GET TO IT. THE RECENT POLLS SHOW THAT THIS RACE COULD BE A DEAD HEAT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT?
DEBBIE LESKO: I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO THINK ABOUT POLLS. MOST OF THE POLLS I HAVE SEEN SHOW ME HEAD. SOME 9 POINTS AHEAD, ONE 10 POINTS AHEAD. ONE -- EMERSON COLLEGE SHOWED ME ONE POINT BEHIND. WHO KNOWS? I THINK WE LEARNED WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ELECTION, THAT THE POLLS ARE NOT ALWAYS ACCURATE. MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN CALLED ON THE POLLS. THEY ARE NOT REAL ACCURATE. THEY SAY, ARE YOU A REGISTERED VOTER? THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO IT IS.
TED SIMONS: DO YOU THINK MOMENTUM IS SWITCHING TO YOUR OPPONENT?
DEBBIE LESKO: I DON'T THINK ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. WE ARE A REPUBLICAN DISTRICT. RETURNS LOOK GOOD FOR REPUBLICANS. 2/3 OF THE VOTES ARE IN. 48 OR 49% ARE REPUBLICAN AND 27 OR 28% ARE DEMOCRATIC BALLOTS. IT LOOKS GOOD, BUT I NEVER TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. THIS IS THE WAY IT IS WHEN THE OTHER PARTY IS IN CONTROL, THE OPPOSITE PARTY WANTS TO TAKE BACK CONTROL. THE DEMOCRATS ARE MOTIVATED. I WAS AN EVENT AND THEY HAD SHIPPED IN DEMOCRATS FROM NEW YORK CITY TO HELP.
TED SIMONS: REPUBLICANS ARE HAPPYING YOU WITH SPEAKER RYAN. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE, A SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE WHO TALKED IN THE PAST OF CUTS TO MEDICAID, MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY? ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THAT?
DEBBIE LESKO: I'M COMFORTABLE WITH ANYONE THAT WANTS TO SUPPORT ME. I'M CERTAINLY GOING TO PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT SPEAKER RYAN SAID IN THE PAST. I TRIED TO LOOK IT UP. I DIDN'T SEE A SPECIFIC PLAN. IF WE CAN DO SOMETHING LIKE I DID WITH PENSION REFORM FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS WHERE YOU TWEAK IT FOR FUTURE ENROLLEES DOWN THE ROAD, SO YOU SAVE IT BECAUSE WE HAVE TO SAVE THE SYSTEM. IT'S GOING TO GO BANKRUPT. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. WE CAN'T LET IT GO BANKRUPT.
TED SIMONS: SINCE WE ARE ON THE TOPIC OF SPEAKER RYAN, HE'S BASICALLY SAYING, ENTITLEMENT REFORM -- HIS WORDS, WERE THE BIG DRIVER OF THE DEBT RIGHT NOW, AND SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE WITH WHAT HE CALLS ENTITLEMENT. THAT DISTRICT, THERE ARE A LOT OF FOLKS ON MEDICARE, MEDICAID AND SOCIAL SECURITY AS WELL. DO THEY WANT ENTITLE REFORM?
DEBBIE LESKO: I THINK WE NEED TO PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND TO THOSE CLOSE TO THE AGE OF RELYING ON IT AS WELL. I THINK IT'S POSSIBLE. I'M NOT THERE YET, BUT I DID PENSION REFORM. WE DID TWEAKS. IT CAN SAVE A LOT OF MONEY IF YOU GO OUT 30 YEARS OR SO AND YOU CAN SAVE THE PLAN. WE HAVE TO PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. I THINK THAT WE CAN MAKE REFORMS TO THE S.N.A.P. OR FOOD STAMP PROGRAM. I SAW HERE IN THE STATE. YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS A FRESHMAN IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE, PEOPLE WERE SELLING FOOD STAMP CARDS FOR 33-CENTS ON THE DOLLAR. WE HAVE TO MAKE REFORM THERE.
TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND- BACK TO SPEAKER RYAN, THE TAX REFORM BILL THAT IS ESTIMATED IN SOME CORNER A TRILLION, 1.5 TRILLION ADDED TO THE CURRENT DEBT. IS THAT A GOOD THING? WOULD YOU HAVE VOTED FOR THAT TAX CUT BILL?
DEBBIE LESKO: I WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR THE TAX CUT BILL. I THINK MOST IN MY DISTRICT AND ACROSS AMERICA SUPPORT IT. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE POLLS ARE SAYING. THEY ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE, BUT PEOPLE THAT HAVE TALKED TO ME, THEY SEE A BOOST IN TAKE HOME PAY. THEY ARE PAYING LESS TAXES. I TALKED TO A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER. HE SAID IT'S HELPED THEM IMMENSELY. THEY WERE ABLE TO GIVE THEIR EMPLOYEES BONUSES. I'M A FIRM BELIEVER THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE ABLE TO KEEP MORE OF THEIR OWN MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS. WE HAVE TO WORK ON CUTTING THE DEBT, HOWEVER, SO THERE MUST BE OTHER WAYS WE CAN CUT WASTEFUL SPENDING IN ORDER TO DO THAT.
TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATS SAY THE TAX CUT BILL IS SKEWED TOWARD THE WEALTHY. VALID?
DEBBIE LESKO: THEY ALWAYS SAY THAT. THAT'S THE ARGUMENT AGAINST TAX CUTS EVEN AT THE STATE LEVEL. I BELIEVE PEOPLE SHOULD BE ABLE TO KEEP MORE OF THEIR OWN HARD-EARNED MONEY IN THEIR OWN POCKETS. IT'S A DIFFERENCE IN PHILOSOPHY. MY OPPONENT DOESN'T BELIEVE IN TAX CUTS. I DO. REPUBLICANS FOR THE MOST PART BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE SHOULD KEEP THEIR OWN MONEY. DEMOCRATS DO NOT.
TED SIMONS: LET'S MOVE ON FROM THAT ONE. HEALTHCARE, DO YOU BELIEVE IT'S THE RIGHT OF EVERY AMERICAN TO HAVE HEALTHCARE?
DEBBIE LESKO: I THINK THEY SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE. I DON'T BELIEVE IN MY OPPONENT'S MEDICARE FOR EVERYONE, THINGS SHE CALLS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. OTHERS SHE DENIES SHE WANTS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. I'M NOT SURE WHERE SHE'S AT, FRANKLY. I BELIEVE IN FREE MARKET HEALTHCARE. WE CAN ALLOW PEOPLE TO BUY INSURANCE ACROSS STATE LINES. WE CAN ALLOW SMALL BUSINESSES TO GROUP TOGETHER TO GIVE CHEAPER OPTIONS TO EMPLOYEES. I'M NOT AN EXPERT AT THIS, BUT I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED HEALTHCARE.
TED SIMONS: WHY NOT ALLOW OR HAVE MEDICARE COMPETE IN THE PRIVATE SECONDER, PUBLIC MARKET, AND FREE MARKET ALONG WITH OTHER HEALTHCARE PLANS. I THINK THAT'S WHAT YOUR OPPONENT IS SUGGESTING, MAKING MEDICAID A PUBLIC ENTITY.
DEBBIE LESKO: HER DEFINITION OF PUBLIC IS GOVERNMENT RUN. I BELIEVE IN FREE MARKETS, PRIVATE ENTERPRISES, AND HAVING THE GOVERNMENT COMPETE WITH PRIVATE ENTERPRISES WHEN THE GOVERNMENT IS SUBSIDIZED BY TAX-PAYER DOLLARS, I DON'T THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA.
TED SIMONS: DOES THAT TRUMP QUALITY AND AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE FOR ALL. IF THAT'S THE WAY TO GET IT, DO YOU THINK THAT IS THE GROUND?
DEBBIE LESKO: I BELIEVE IN FREE MARKETS. SHE'S GOING ON SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROL. I AGREE WITH FREEDOM AND PATIENT RIGHTS. IF YOU LOOK AT OTHER PLACES WITH SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING. LET'S LOOK AT THE V.A. I KNOW THAT'S A LITTLE DIFFERENT, BUT IT'S GOVERNMENT RUN. IT'S NOT DOING WELL. I WOULD PREFER TO GO TO MY OWN DOCTOR.
TED SIMONS: SAY I'M A VOTER IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 8, AN INDEPENDENT. CONSERVATIVE HERE, NOT SO CONSERVATIVE THERE. HOW DO YOU CONVINCE ME TO VOTE FOR YOU?
DEBBIE LESKO: I HAVE A LONG TRACK RECORD. I HAVE BEEN VOLUNTEERING AND WORKING AND BEING INVOLVED IN WEST VALLEY FOR 20 YEARS. I VOLUNTEERED WITH MY KID'S SCHOOLS, WITH THE CITIES I LIVED IN, AND I SERVED IN THE LEGISLATURE NINE OF THOSE YEARS. I HAVE BEEN TO SO MANY MEETING, DISTRICT MEETINGS, HELPED CONSTITUENTS. MY STREET LIGHT IS OUT. I HELP THEM. I HELP THEM. I CALL THE COUNTY TO GET THEIR STREET LIGHTS FIXED. I HAVE WORKED WITH EVERYONE. I NEGOTIATE WITH EVERYONE. I'M ALSO A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN. THAT'S WHAT MY DISTRICT WANTS. I SHARE THE VALUES OF THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN MY DISTRICT. I DON'T THINK MY DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT DOES. SHE'S TOO LIBERAL FOR THIS DISTRICT.
TED SIMONS: DEBBIE LESKO, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. WE APPRECIATE IT.
DEBBIE LESKO: THANK YOU.
Debbie Lesko: Republican candidate, Congressional District 8