By Jim Ellis
March 1, 2018 — Voters in the West Valley of Arizona’s Maricopa County went to the polls Tuesday and prior to that, throughout the early voting period, to cast their ballots for special election nominees to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).
Until she resigned her own seat in the state legislature to enter this special congressional election, Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), was the state Senate President Pro Tempore. She became the favorite late in the voting period, and capitalized on her momentum to score a strong victory in the Republican primary. She recorded 36 percent of the vote while resigned state Rep. Phil Lovas (R-Glendale) and resigned state Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Surprise) trailed, each posting 24 percent. Former Public Service Commissioner Bob Stump (no relation to the late Republican US Rep. Bob Stump, who served in the House for 26 years), finished a poor fourth, capturing just over five percent of the vote.
Arizona has a “resign to run” law, meaning an elected official must relinquish the office they currently hold if seeking another elected position. This explains all of the office holders running in this special contest having recently resigned their positions.
For the Democrats, physician Hiral Tipirneni scored an easy 60-40 percent victory over auto sales manager and LGBT activist Brianna Westbrook in a contest that never appeared to be in doubt. Though turnout was up substantially in the Democratic column when compared to past similar elections, their participation number still paled in comparison to majority Republicans. The unofficial count shows 36,404 total Democratic votes, while the aggregate GOP vote recorded 71,320 spread among a dozen candidates.
The 8th District is heavily Republican (Trump ’16: 58-37 percent; Romney ’12: 62-37 percent; McCain ’08: 61-38 percent), and the gross GOP turnout looks to exceed their Democrat counterparts by a 2:1 margin. At this writing, the total turnout is just under 110,000 votes, a tip above 24 percent of the entire registered voter database.
Lesko and Tipirneni now advance to the April 24 special general election. Lesko, taking advantage of the electorate’s Republican nature, begins the special general as a heavy favorite, while questions remain about whether the national Democratic apparatus will even spend the money to contest the seat.
After winning the seat on April 24, the new House member will then file for the regular election before May 30 in preparation for the Aug. 28 Arizona primary.
The next special election comes on March 13 in Pennsylvania when Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone and Democratic attorney Conor Lamb square off in a battle to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).
On May 8 in a special congressional primary held concurrently with the state’s regular primary election, central Ohio voters will choose nominees to replace resigned Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) in the Franklin County-anchored 12th Congressional District.
The final special election will be held concurrently with the general election cycle. Michigan former Rep. John Conyers’ (D-Detroit) seat will be vacant until the November general election, at which time voters will choose a replacement to serve the remaining two months of the current Congress and to represent the constituency for the coming term.