Arizona state senator Debbie Lesko held on to a small lead to defeat challenger Hiral Tipirneni and keep the GOP’s seat in the Grand Canyon State’s 8th District special election Tuesday.
With 100 percent of returns counted Weldnesday morning, Lesko defeated Democrat Tipirneni, an emergency room doctor, by five percentage points. With the Associated Press calling the race one hour after polls closed, Lesko won with 52.61 percent to Tipirneni’s 47.39.
“All I can say is wow, this is really something. This is really quite overwhelming. Twenty-five years ago, I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamed in a million years that I would be running for Congress and be a congresswoman,” Lesko told supporters after her victory.
Amid defeat, Tipirneni saw a future in politics, telling supporters she would mount a challenge to Lesko in November.
Refusing to concede Tuesday evening, Tipirneni told crowds:
“Something is happening here. What it comes down to is we knew our community and our district and our neighborhoods a hell of a lot better than the pundits did. Whatever happens, we know the fight is not over, it’s kind of just beginning.”
A district dominated by Republicans and a seat held by the GOP for 40 years, Lesko’s tissue-thin victory contrasted with Donald Trump’s 2016 election in which he easily won the district by 21 points. In 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 25 points.
“Republicans shouldn’t be hitting the alarm, they should be slamming it,” said an Arizona GOP pollster. “This district isn’t supposed to be competitive, and so to see this margin, especially with the Republicans pouring in resources here — again, it’s a tough year.”
Lesko’s win in Arizona ends a slide for the Republican Party which witnesses two key special elections turn into Democratic gains.
In December 2017, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore to fill Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. Four months later, Democrat Conor Lamb defeated Rick Saccone to take away Pennsylvania’s GOP-held 18th District seat in the House.
[The Hill] [Reuters] [Politico] [Photo courtesy NBC News]