Here's Your Recap of All the Drama in Congressional District 8

Steve Montenegro
Steve Montenegro Gage Skidmore
Given that Trent Franks had to give up his seat in Congress amid allegations that he offered an aide $5 million to carry his baby, you'd think that the candidates vying to replace him would want to make sure they're squeaky clean.

Yeah. Nope. In the weeks leading up to the primary — which takes place Tuesday — the competition between Republicans fighting to replace Franks in deep-red Congressional District 8 has gotten ugly. If you haven't been following along, here's a recap of the drama that's gone down so far:

Everyone got to see Steve Montenegro's flirty texts.

There's no question that the biggest scandal of this election cycle revolves around former Arizona Senate majority leader Steve Montenegro's text messages.

Last year, Montenegro, a married pastor and "family values" conservative, had traded flirtatious messages (including at least one topless photo, and many SpongeBob GIFs) with a female staffer who was definitely not his wife. Her ex-boyfriend later copied the text messages from her computer and shopped them around to the media.

After the news broke last week, Montenegro (who has been dodging local reporters) told the conservative Washington Examiner that he "did not have any inappropriate relationships with that woman." As far as political performances go, it was not a convincing one.

Hours later, the female staffer's attorney held a press conference where he released all of the text messages, including the ones where Montenegro talks shit about Secretary of State Michelle Reagan, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, and State Senator Catherine Miranda. One imagines that Montenegro is more eager than ever to leave Arizona behind for Washington, D.C.

click to enlarge STACY JARVIS/TWITTER
Stacy Jarvis/Twitter
Those regular working-class guys in hard hats on Montenegro's campaign mailer turned out to be members of his campaign team.

This isn't nearly as bad as the sexting, but it is hilarious. Nothing says "man of the people" like forcing your staffers to dress up as construction workers. Best of all, they got busted because they openly joked about it on Facebook.

There was a fight over who owns the name "Bob Stump."

So, the guy named Bob Stump who is running for Congress in District 8 is not the same person as former congressman Bob Stump, who is dead. They're not even related to each other. In fact, candidate Bob Stump was known as Christopher Stump until 2002, shortly before he first ran for office in Arizona.

In January, former congressman Bob Stump's widow, Nancy Stump, called out the other Bob Stump in a letter sent to the media that called on him to "stop this charade." In response, Jane Stump, the candidate's mother, published an open letter demanding that Nancy Stump apologize to her and her family.

"To imply that a name is somehow the property of one family is the height of arrogance," she wrote. "I deeply resent it."

The issue still hasn't been fully settled, and it would be awesome if Mrs. Stump ends up fighting the other Mrs. Stump outside the polls on Tuesday. 

Former state senator Debbie Lesko's main rivals accused her of money laundering.

Last week, the Yellow Sheet Report  noticed something slightly shady about Debbie Lesko's campaign fundraising: She'd taken $50,000 from her state senate campaign committee and donated it to a super PAC named Conservative Leadership for Arizona, which has spent nearly that same amount on her Congressional campaign.

Courtesy of Debbie Lesko
While that appears to be legal, the ethics are questionable, and candidates in a similar situation often choose to return contributions to their supporters rather than use those donations to finance a difference race.

Predictably, Lesko's two main rivals, Montenegro and Trump superfan Phil Lovas, accused her of illegal money laundering, even though there's no evidence that she's guilty of any such thing.

Lesko promptly threatened to sue Lovas for defamation, which anyone with the slightest knowledge of media law can you tell is completely bogus. (The standard for defamation is extremely high when you're dealing with public figures.) In the end, no one came out of this one looking good. 

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.