Rating Change: Special Election in Arizona’s 8th Gets More Vulnerable for GOP

And it could become even more so between now and the April 24 general

Former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko is the Republican nominee in the 8th District race to replace Rep. Trent Franks. (Courtesy Debbie Lesko/Flickr)

It might look like Republicans dodged a disaster in Arizona’s 8th District, considering former state Sen. Steve Montenegro didn’t win Tuesday’s primary. But as we’ve written before, Republicans seem to find new ways to make these special elections competitive, and Democrats everywhere are excited to send a message to President Donald Trump.

Unlike Montenegro, former state Sen. Debbie Lesko, the GOP nominee, has not received a topless photo from a staffer. But she has been accused of violating campaign finance rules by illegally funneling state funds to a federal race.

It’s unclear whether that will be enough to loosen the GOP grip on a district that Trump carried by 21 points in 2016. But the trend is clear: Democrats are consistently over-performing, and sometimes it’s enough to win in unlikely places.

At a minimum, the trend demonstrates that this race will get more competitive in the weeks ahead. We’re changing our Inside Elections rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, and we somewhat expect it to get more vulnerable between now and the April 24 election.

Behind the Scenes of Race Ratings: The Candidate Interview

Democrats haven’t invested a significant amount of money into the race at this point, but will likely poll the contest to take a fresh look at the situation now that the nominees are set.

Their nominee is Hiral Tipirneni, a doctor who immigrated to the United States from India when she was three years old. She’s not a household name yet but seems likely to get more attention, particularly if Conor Lamb wins the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District in a couple of weeks.

You can read a baseline analysis of the special election race for Arizona’s 8th District in the Jan. 19 issue of Inside Elections.

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