Eyes On Republican Candidate Debbie Lesko

Things are going to get closer and more problematic for the GOP in 8th CD in Arizona.

It might look like Republicans dodged a disaster in Arizona’s 8th District considering former state senator 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.

Lesko’s rise was fueled by Montenegro hemorrhaging support from local conservative activists when the the Arizona Republic published an expose one week ago on an alleged improper sexual relationship the married father had with a legislative aide while he was still a member of the state Senate. One of the most striking details in the report was the allegation that a topless photo was texted to Montenegro.

It’s unclear whether that will be enough to loosen Republicans’ grip on a district that Trump won 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 this race will get more competitive in the weeks ahead. We’re changing our Inside Elections rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, and somewhat expect it to get more vulnerable between now and the April 24 election.

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