'Blue Wave' put on hold as Republican wins AZ special election

Democrats' path to take over the House in November took a sharp right turn last night as a Republican won a special congressional election in Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

Debbie Lesko, a former state senator, bested Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician, by about 10,000 votes.  Donald Trump won Arizona by 21 points in 2016.

Lesko will serve out the term of Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned in disgrace.


Lesko will fill the seat through the end of this congressional term in January and must run for re-election in November to continue serving.

Even though Republicans avoided another stinging loss in a special election after losing a US Senate race in December in Alabama and Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District in March, the party's top operatives in Arizona and across the country worried that the narrow margin was a signal of losses to come.

"This was not supposed to be this close," the senior Republican said as representatives from the Lesko campaign touted the win for their candidate.  "We really can't blame anything.  We got killed among independents.  It shouldn't have been this close." ...

Democrats didn't think they would win the race.  Arizona's 8th Congressional District has all the hallmarks of a place Republicans should easily win and there are around 78,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the area.

But in a year where Democrats, buoyed by anti-Trump fervor, have consistently overperformed their Republican counterparts, the party will look at the loss as a sign that a blue wave is about to crash on Republicans in the general election later this year.

First of all, if there is going to be a "Blue Wave" in November, this is exactly the kind of race Democrats should have won to prove it.  The margin of victory for the GOP is immaterial.  Turnout for a special election is even less than it will be for the midterms.  In that sense, there was no sign of Democratic "enthusiasm" that would overtake many GOP congressmen who may be vulnerable.

But Republicans should not be very happy.  They are going to need a much better effort at turnout in many districts if they are going to hold control of the House. 

The key for Republicans to maintain control of the House is putting forward good candidates, especially in the nearly three dozen open seats that will be contested in the fall.  This is where GOP fortunes will rise or fall, and Democrats crowing about a 10,000 vote loss in Arizona should take note.

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