Early results show Debbie Lesko defeating Hiral Tipirneni by a surprisingly small margin in today's special election to replace Trent Franks in Congressional District 8.
Lesko, a Republican, had a 6 percent lead over Tipirneni, a Democrat, at 8 p.m. after early ballots were counted.
Despite the fact that there's not much chance that they'll pull ahead at this point, Democrats are already spinning the closeness of the race as a victory.
Oh my! @hiral4congress only behind by 6%. 53-47. Unbelievable. AZ GOP should panic. Trump won by 21 points in CD8. He only won AZ by 3.5 points. This is great news for Democrats.— Chris Herstam (@chrisherstam) April 25, 2018
Huge message tonight. A significant rebuke to the Trump agenda in a blood red district. https://t.co/HvIAUQoFGO— Representative Daniel Hernandez Jr (@djblp) April 25, 2018
The Associated Press called the race for Lesko at about 8:15 p.m. Tipirneni has not yet conceded.
Considering that there wasn't even a Democratic candidate on the ballot in 2014 and 2016, having a brand-new candidate with no track record in politics get 47 percent of the vote is seriously impressive. Tipirneni has even fared better than Hillary Clinton, who lost the district by 21 percentage points in the 2016 election.
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Still, Democrats appear to have lost. And the seat was never really up for grabs. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee realized that and didn't bother investing any money in the race. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee spent more than a $250,000 on door-to-door canvassing, leading to a slew of hopeful headlines in left-leaning media outlets about how the GOP was "nervous."
Arizona, like other parts of the country, has seen a surge in liberal activism since the 2016 election. But that wasn't going to change the fact that Congressional District 8 is full of super-conservative old people. Of the more than 150,000 voters who turned in their ballots prior to election day, 75,253 were registered Republicans and only 43,372 were registered Democrats, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's office. The median age was 67, and less than 7 percent of people submitting early ballots were between the ages of 18 and 34.
In other words, a sentient golf cart could have won this race.
Unfortunately for Lesko, though, all congressional seats are up for grabs in even-numbered years. That means that she'll face another primary in August, and will have to start running for re-election right away. Tipirneni — or anyone else — can try to unseat her in November.