Republican Debbie Lesko will take over the seat vacated by Trent Franks in Congressional District 8, beating Democrat Hiral Tipirneni by a surprisingly low six points.
Tipirneni found victory in defeat because she was able to gain the support of more people than anyone expected in the strong Republican district. She says she is ready to come back and campaign again in November.
“This race was never really about who’s going to win, more so about what margin are they going to win,” Veridus Associate Director Annie Vogt says. “I think a lot of Republicans were expecting to win bigger tonight so that’s a concern moving forward. A win is a win.”
Jason Barraza, senior associate director at Veridus, says that for Democrats to move the dial past a 15 point margin was a big deal. Franks had that district during every election, winning the last one by 16 points. It will be enough to make things even more competitive come November. There will be a lot of space that Republicans thought was safe, but now they’re going to have to pay attention to, says Bill Scheel, a partner with Javeline.
“I think what we saw here and what we’re going to see in November is voters are looking for results,” Stan Barnes, President of Copper State Consulting, says. “Republicans both at the federal level – Congress has been really unproductive – and at the state, we see the lack of action on education. I think voters are wanting action, and I think Lesko will have a hard time producing anything.”
Both candidates led well-organized and funded campaigns which helped them greatly in the race. Tipirneni was able to raise $800,000, with much of that coming from over 50,000 small-dollar donors. Lesko raised three quarters of a million with help from D.C. establishments. Scheel says if Democrats can fund raise that well without relying on D.C., then it will be a real game changer.
Scheel says Democrats statewide have gained a “really clear and focused” opportunity to take some of the reputable conservative districts. Barraza adds that the landscape of Arizona will begin to change in front of our eyes. He says the growing population of independent voters cannot be ignored, and everyone should be racing to gain the favor of these voters.