Republican Debbie Lesko holds lead in Arizona special election

An Indian-American cancer research scientist, Hiral Tipirneni has lost narrowly in the special election for the House of Representatives from a Republican stronghold in Arizona, US media reported today.

Former Arizona state Sen. Ms. Tipirneni was the first Democrat to contest the district, which covers suburbs north and west of Phoenix, since 2012.

However, the relatively close margin of victory in a district Donald Trump won by 21 points in 2016 signals trouble for Republicans heading into the midterm elections in November.

"I think we proved a few people wrong", Tipirneni said, according to video from ABC15 Arizona on Facebook Live. Tipirneni - or anyone else - can try to unseat her in November.

While Republican candidates like Ms. Lesko have mostly prevailed in the recent special elections, they have been winning by sharply reduced margins.

Multiple forces are behind the swing: Republican voters appear demoralized while Democrats are fired up, and some voters who typically lean Republican have been shifting away from the party.

Speaking to supporters in Arizona on Tuesday, Tipirneni did not concede the race to Lesko, and said she was "not giving up" and planned to run for the seat again in November, win or lose.

However, Lesko had not escaped controversy: She has brushed off complaints made to the Federal Election Commission that she broke campaign finance laws during the primary by transferring $50,000 from her state campaign to an independent group that spent almost all the cash backing her congressional run. That is a narrow win compared to the victory margin of Trent Franks, who beat his opponent by 37 points in 2016, but resigned amid scandal.

Lesko bested Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni, who was hoping to ride the coattails of Democratic upsets in Alabama and Pennsylvania.

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National Republican groups spent big to back Lesko, pouring cash into the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters to ensure her victory.

Tipirneni worked the district hard, making inroads rarely seen in an area that hadn't elected a Democrat since the early 1980s.

Tipirneni raised $664,920 during the race, over $100,000 more than Lesko's $539,403.

A strong performance by Democrats in a district where the party did not even field a challenger in the last two elections marked yet another troubling sign for the Republican party ahead of the 2018 elections. Add Republican Party as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Republican Party news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

"This is so awesome", Lesko said, shortly after unofficial results were announced.

Early voting numbers reflected a much older electorate and a GOP advantage, but polling in the final weeks of the race was all over the map. The Democratic National Committee, like the RNC, sent in staff.

The call touted Lesko as a Republican in line with Trump on immigration and urged voters to get out and vote for her early.

Lesko represented parts of the district since 2009 and has an extremely strong base of support in a district Franks had locked up since 2003.

  • Stacy Houston