Republicans held onto a deeply conservative Arizona congressional seat on Tuesday night in a special election race to replace an incumbent lawmaker who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.
The Associated Press called the race for Republican Debbie Lesko shortly after 8pm local time, when the results from the first batch of early votes showed she had a 9,000-vote lead over her Democratic opponent, Hiral Tiperneni.
Lesko, a former state senator, led Tiperneni, a doctor and political newcomer, by a margin of 53% to 47% in the race for a Phoenix-area seat that Donald Trump had won by over 20 points. The result, albeit preliminary, is unlikely to calm Republican nerves ahead of an midterm election cycle when the president’s party historically loses seats in Congress.
The race was being watched as a potential test of Trump’s popularity after surprising Democratic special election victories in Republican strongholds like Pennsylvania and Alabama. And the strong performance by the Democrat in a district where the party did not even field a challenger in the last two elections marked yet another troubling sign for the Republican party ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump made a last-minute appeal on Tuesday, urging voters to support Lesko, who he was “Strong on Border, Immigration and Crime. Great on the Military”.
The seat came open in December, when conservative lawmaker Trent Franks resigned over reports he offered to pay a female staffer $5m in exchange for carrying his child. Lesko will serve for the duration of his two-year term and seek re-election this fall.
The district, located in the western suburbs of Phoenix, is known for its Sun City retirement community and for permitting golf carts to drive on the streets. Consequently the constituency is home to a sizeable senior population that helped keep hardline former sheriff Joe Arpaio in office for more than two decades.
Early voting numbers eased jittery Republicans. Before the polls opened on Tuesday more than 70% of Arizonans had already cast their ballots, half of which came from registered Republicans, and the median age of voters was 67.
Tuesday night’s results are preliminary and the margin could still narrow as ballots are counted. As many as 19,000 ballots have not yet been tallied, Adrian Fontes, the Maricopa County Recorder, said on Tuesday night.
Republicans in Arizona were confident the district would not flip but the national party leaders and groups had no intention of leaving anything to chance after last month’s shock Democratic victory in south-western Pennsylvania.
The Republican National Committee, National Republican Campaign Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have collectively spent nearly $1m to defend the reliably conservative seat. National Democrats, notably, stayed out of the race, but used the election as an opportunity to strengthen the party in the district and generate enthusiasm among liberals statewide.
This fall, Arizona will play host to one of the marquee Senate races of the cycle for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican senator Jeff Flake. The state will host hold a gubernatorial election and a contested congressional race.
After a loss in Arizona’s eight congressional district, Democrats still must win 23 seats to take back the House of Representatives.
Tiperneni, who is part of the wave of Democratic women inspired to run for office since Trump was elected, entered the race to challenge Franks. It is unclear whether she intends to challenge Lesko in November.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.