Arizona Republican wins tight race for U.S. House seat

Debbie Lesko, an Arizona Republican, is declared the winner of a special election for U.S. House. Source: Lesko for Congress

PHOENIX – Republicans are celebrating victory in an Arizona election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat.  Republican Debbie Lesko won a tight race over Democratic Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room doctor. The vote count was still underway in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, with Lesko leading by about 9,100 votes and 10,500 votes still to be counted, according to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

Official word came after daybreak Wednesday that Lesko won the special election with 53 percent of the vote.

“I want to promise you that I am going to continue to work hard for the people of my district and continue to represent you with the values that have continued to make our nation great,” Lesko told her supporters in a speech on Tuesday night.

Lesko replaces U.S. Representative Trent Franks, a Republican, in Arizona’s 8th District seat. The party focused their efforts on getting out the Republican vote with Trump calling for a strong Republican turnout for Lesko in a Tuesday tweet.

President Donald Trump praised her “big win” in a message on Twitter Wednesday.

“Debbie will do a Great Job!” he wrote. “Press is so silent.”

Trump won the district in 2016 by a 21 point margin, wider than Lesko’s, giving hope to Democrats who see the narrowing divide as momentum heading into November’s midterm elections.

Democrats launched a last-minute blitz to try to pull off a win, hoping to replicate strong performances by the party in Pennsylvania and Alabama, partly fueled by opposition to Trump.

The party must pick up 23 seats nationally to reclaim control of the House of Representatives and two seats to regain a majority in the Senate.

Franks resigned on Dec. 8 from the Phoenix district where he has served since 2003 amid allegations that he made improper advances to female staff and that he offered a female staff member $5 million to act as a surrogate to bear a child for him and his wife. He denied any wrongdoing.

Lesko has said she supports Trump’s proposal for a border wall between the United States and Mexico, tightened border security and tax cuts. She is also against abortion and is a staunch gun-rights advocate.

Tipirneni largely focused her campaign on Trump and expansion of Medicaid. She also opposes building of a wall.