Republican Debbie Lesko Wins Arizona Special Election

Former Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko won the special election in Arizona’s 8th District on Tuesday night, but her victory margin for a seat that President Donald Trump easily carried in 2016 appeared to be relatively slim.

The Associated Press called the race with Lesko leading Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, 53 percent to 47 percent. The seat opened up after former GOP Rep. Trent Franks resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Lesko and Tipirneni could face off again in November. Both have said they plan to file to run again for a full term. The primary for that race is Aug. 28.

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Democrats noted that a single-digit margin of victory for Lesko could indicate trouble in the fall for other Republicans in Arizona and across the country, especially considering Trump carried the district by 21 points.  

Tiprineni, a former emergency room physician, raised $740,000 through the first quarter, surpassing Lesko’s haul of $564,000, according to Federal Election Commission documents. The fundraising edge helped her compete on the airwaves with a barrage of spending by outside GOP groups.

Republicans came to Lesko’s aid in hopes of avoiding another Democratic upset, after recent shock special election losses in Alabama and Pennsylvania. Groups including the Republican National Committee; the National Republican Congressional Committee; and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, spent a combined more than $1 million for the GOP nominee. 

Lesko was endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus, though not every candidate endorsed by the hard-line conservative group joins its ranks. If Lesko is invited and decides to join, she would be the only woman in the bloc.

Throughout the campaign, the former state legislator stressed her support for Trump’s immigration policies, including building a wall on the Southern border. She also touted her support for the GOP tax overhaul.

Lesko was first elected to the Arizona state House in 2008, later moving to the state Senate in 2014. She served as the Senate president pro tempore until she resigned from the chamber in January to focus on her congressional bid.

She becomes the only second Republican woman elected to Congress from Arizona, after Rep. Martha McSally, who is vacating her 2nd District seat to run for Senate. Campaigning with Lesko over the weekend, McSally noted the outsize attention the race had drawn, urging voters to help the former state senator “win big.”

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Washington will soon find out if Sarah Huckabee Sanders can take it as well as she can dish it out.

The White House press secretary is going to the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner on Saturday, April 28, in place of her boss.

President Donald Trump hasn’t been to the dinner since comedian Seth Meyers skewered him in 2011 when he was teasing a presidential run.

“Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, since I just assumed that he was running as a joke,” Meyers said at the time. 

Comedian Michelle Wolf is the host of this year’s dinner at the Washington Hilton. The former Daily Show correspondent jokingly dared Trump to attend the event at a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

“I dare you, you poor little man,” she said to laughs. “I’ll give you five dollars if you come.” 

For those who don’t get to be in the room for the jokes, there are parties around town to celebrate what locals like to call “Nerd Prom.” All parties are invite-only and the invitations are nontransferable.

Have more to add to the list? Email: HOH@rollcall.com.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would not be making floor time for legislation designed to shield Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III from firing.

McConnell’s determination that the action is not needed is apparently regardless of what happens in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I don’t think he should fire Mueller, and I don’t think he’s going to,” the Kentucky Republican said. “So, this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgement.”

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as the majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell said during a Fox News interview.

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The measure being considered by the Senate committee is a hybrid of combines two separate proposals, each backed by Republicans and Democrats.

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