Republicans are hopeful about avoiding another special election upset in Arizona on Tuesday.
The race in the conservative 8th Congressional District northwest of Phoenix is being looked at closely, after special election shockers in Pennsylvania and Alabama in recent months, where Democrats won a House seat and a Senate seat in territory where Republicans have been in control for years.
The race is between Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state senator, and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician new to politics.
Early voting numbers show Republicans have turned in almost 49 percent of the ballots, Democrats about 28 percent and independents 23 percent. The candidate who actually received all those votes will not be known until Tuesday evening. Polls close at 10 p.m. ET, but results are not expected until after 11 p.m. ET.
The Maricopa County Recorder’s office estimates the vast majority of the votes will have already been cast before Tuesday’s in-person voting.
Despite those promising numbers, Republican Debbie Lesko was taking no chances as she told her supporters on Saturday that “we are in the fight of our lives.”
“This isn’t like the normal, everyday elections that happen in November, where Trent Franks had won by a whole bunch because nobody really challenged him,” Lesko said, referring to the former occupant of the seat who resigned in December after discussing surrogacy with two female staffers. “The entire nation is looking at Arizona, because it’s the only game in town right now.”
President Trump won the district in 2016 by 21 points. In 2016, Franks won the seat with more than 68 percent of the vote.
The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have together spent over $900,000 on the race. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican superPAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, has spent about $100,000. That’s far below the approximately $10.6 million conservative groups spent on Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which Democrats flipped in March.
Democratic groups have spent far less on the Arizona race. The Democratic National Committee, like the RNC, has sent in staff. The Working Families Party’s superPAC spent $100,000 to support Tipirneni. Liberal groups spent $1.8 million in Pennsylvania.
As a candidate, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has outraised Lesko by almost $200,000.
Lesko, a former state lawmaker, is well-known in the district for her work on laws allowing golf carts to be driven on the side of the road, expanding the state’s school voucher program, and reforming public safety pensions.
Tipirneni is hoping for an election night upset.
“There should be no foregone conclusion,” she told her volunteers and staff at a high school auditorium over the weekend. “Nobody should be getting into office to represent hundreds of thousands of people by default. And that is what has been happening in this district for much too long.”
Even if Tipirneni is unsuccessful, she has said she will run again in November.
Candidates in other Arizona races are watching this result. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in what’s expected to be a tight general election race, joined Lesko at her pre-canvassing pep rally.
“They’ll be analyzing,” McSally said, referring to pundits. “And then that’s all gonna be about like, ‘Ooh, this is an indication for November.’ Okay? So, she has got to crush this.”
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