The Associated Press declared Republican Debbie Lesko the winner of Tuesday’s special election in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni at 11:08 p.m. Eastern, one hour and eight minutes after the polls closed.
BREAKING: Republican Debbie Lesko wins special U.S. House election in Arizona, keeping seat in GOP control.
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 25, 2018
At 11:01 p.m Eastern, Decision Desk HQ tweeted that Lesko had a 9,000 vote lead, leading Tipirneni by 53 percent to 47 percent.
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) April 25, 2018
“With so few votes left to actually count, Tipirneni is going to need to win those by a sizable margin to overcome,” the polling group added in a tweet a minute later.
The New York Times called the election for Lesko shortly after AP called it at 11:08 p.m.
At 11:21 p.m. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the following statement congratulating Lesko on her victory:
Congratulations to Debbie on her hard-fought victory. Debbie ran a smart campaign and focused in on the issues that voters cared about, like having more take-home pay, fewer regulations, and a secure border. She is a committed conservative who will make Arizona proud, and I’m excited for her to get to Washington so she can help as we continue to advance our agenda. Her victory proves that Republicans have a positive record to run on this fall and we need to spend the next seven months aggressively selling our message to the American people.
At 11:27 p.m., NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers released the following statement regarding Congresswoman-Elect Debbie Lesko’s victory in the AZ-08 special election:
I congratulate Congresswoman-Elect Debbie Lesko and look forward to welcoming her to our conference,” said NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers. “Debbie is a strong conservative whose values truly reflect those of the voters in Arizona’s Eighth District. The NRCC was proud to support her and our targeted and early investments proved to be a difference maker in the race.
As of 11:48 p.m., Decision Desk HQ had not called the election, nor had Tipirneni conceded.
“Early voting will make up a bulk of the ballots cast in the special election and those results are expected to be released after 11 p.m. EDT.,” CNN reported as the polls closed:
According to the Arizona secretary of state, over 155,000 votes have been cast through early voting. Republicans make up 48% of the early ballots cast and the average age of the voters has skewed older, at 63 years old.
Democrats don’t think they will win the race that pits Hiral Tipirneni, a physician, against Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state senator. And Arizona’s 8th Congressional District has all the hallmarks of a place Republicans should easily win: Voters in the predominantly senior and white district, where there are around 78,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, backed President Donald Trump by 21 percentage points in 2016.
Lesko’s victory guarantees that the GOP will hold on to a seat held previously by former Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who resigned over a personal scandal.
That means that the Democrats’ “magic number” to regain majority control of the House of Representatives remains a net gain of 23 seats. Democrats had hoped a victory by Tipirneni would provide more momentum for the heavily hyped “Blue Wave” they’ve been predicting for the 2018 midterm elections since President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.
The “Blue Wave” concept had gained some credence in March when Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) defeated Republican Rick Saccone in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which President Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.
But the special election in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District Tuesday differed from last month’s special election in Pennsylvania in several ways.
First, Hiral Tipirneni was not the same kind of candidate as Conor Lamb, as Breitbart News reported:
Tipirneni’s professional background and political positioning differ from those of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), a military veteran and attorney who parlayed his public opposition to Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) into a narrow victory over his Republican opponent in last month’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.
“The heightened Republican voter turnout [in early voting] may have been influenced by recent reports questioning the professional background of Tipirneni, the Democrat candidate,” Breitbart News noted.
Second, Arizona’s 8th Congressional District is a traditionally Republican district, while Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District is more of a traditionally union oriented blue-collar Democratic district.
The last poll on the race, released on Monday by Emerson College, gave Lesko a six point lead over Tipirneni, 49 percent to 43 percent.
The mainstream media was hoping for a different outcome.
“Tuesday’s special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, in the conservative suburbs outside Phoenix, may reveal the depth of Republicans’ political challenges in 2018,” the New York Times wrote during the day before the polls closed:
Debbie Lesko, the party’s nominee and a former state senator, is favored to win over Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat and emergency room doctor, in a district that supported Donald J. Trump in 2016 by more than 20 points.
Even so, national Republicans have spent more than $1 million to help Ms. Lesko. If the race is close in a district that should have Republicans winning big, it will be another sign of Democratic enthusiasm, organizational muscle and determination to send a message about President Trump and his party.
“In a district Donald Trump won by 21 points in 2016, a Democratic newcomer is trying to pull off an upset victory for an open U.S. House seat in Arizona that has been held by Republicans since the early 1980s,” the Associated Press reported:
National Republican groups are spending big to back Lesko, pouring cash into the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters to ensure her victory. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy flew in for a fundraiser last week.
Lesko also said she welcomes the spending from national GOP organizations.
“Not only do I want to win, but I want to win by a lot so the Democrats can see that they don’t have a chance in a red district,” she said in a recent interview.
National Democratic groups haven’t committed money to ads in the race, but in recent weeks, some progressive groups have been spending to back Tipirneni, and she has been running non-stop TV ads in the last week of the election.
Fivethirtyeight.com reported on Monday:
But Tuesday’s special election in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District — which Rep. Trent Franks vacated in December after reportedly offering one of his staffers $5 million to carry his child — is expected to have a very different outcome from last month’s Democratic upset in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Prominent nonpartisan handicappers all rate the race between Republican Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni as “Likely Republican” — but in terms of reading the tea leaves for November, the winning margin will matter more than the outcome.
“Democrats are hoping to continue their recent momentum in special elections Tuesday when voters outside of Phoenix head to the polls to fill a vacancy created when Republican Rep. Trent Franks resigned in December amid sexual harassment allegations,” CNN reported on Tuesday morning:
Democrats don’t think they will win the race that pits Hiral Tipirneni, a physician, against Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state senator. And Arizona’s 8th Congressional District has all the hallmarks of a place Republican should easily win: Voters in the predominantly senior and white district, where there are around 78,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, backed President Donald Trump by 21 percentage points in 2016.
But in a year where Democrats, buoyed by anti-Trump fervor, have consistently overperformed their Republican counterparts, the party will be looking at the margin of victory on Tuesday evening to determine whether a blue wave is about to crash on Republicans in the general election later this year.
On Tuesday, the “Blue Wave” fizzled in Arizona, but the Democratic Party and the mainstream media will soon forget the outcome in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District and turn to the next bit of evidence to support the idea of momentum for the Democrats as the November midterm elections approach.