Bret Jaspers / KJZZ
Updated at 7:15 a.m. ET
Republicans defended a seat in Congress in Arizona on Tuesday, avoiding another surprise in the special elections with a tight victory in a typically strong GOP district.
Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state senator, defeated Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a new doctor in politics, but Lesko's advantage was only around five percent, in a district where Republicans tend to dominate.
Lesko won 52.6 percent of the vote, with Tipirneni winning 47.4 percent. Donald Trump won the district in 2016 by 21 points. In 2016, the former Republican congressman won the seat with more than 68 percent of the vote. Representative Trent Franks resigned in December on allegations of sexual harassment.
The Associated Press screened the race Tuesday night shortly after the initial results were reported.
"His victory shows that Republicans have a positive record for this fall," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement praising Lesko's victory. On tuesday night. Ryan's allies got involved in the race to make sure there is no democratic unrest.
The race in the conservative 8th Congressional District to the northwest of Phoenix was closely followed after special election clashes in recent months in Pennsylvania and Alabama, where Democrats won a seat in the House and a Senate, respectively, in territory where the Republicans were in control for years.
The early voting figures showed that the Republicans won almost 49 percent of the votes, the Democrats around 28 percent and independents 23 percent. But Lesko did not take any chances, and told his followers on Saturday that "we are in the fight of our lives."
"This is not like the normal, everyday elections that happen in November, where Trent Franks had won completely because no one really challenged him," Lesko said before the vote. "The whole nation is looking at Arizona, because it's the only game in the city right now."
The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $ 900,000 on the race together. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican superPAC aligned with President Ryan, spent about $ 100,000. That's way below the roughly $ 10.6 million of conservative groups spent in the 18th Pennsylvania Congressional District, which Democrats overturned in March.
Democratic groups have spent much less on the Arizona race. The National Democratic Committee, like the RNC, sent personnel. The superPAC of the Working Families Party spent $ 100,000 to support Tipirneni. (Liberal groups spent $ 1.8 million in Pennsylvania.)
As a candidate, Tipirneni outlasted Lesko by almost $ 200,000.
Lesko, a former state legislator, is well known in the district for her work on laws that allow golf carts to be driven along the highway, expand the state's school voucher program and reform safety pensions public.
Although Tipirneni was not successful, she has said she will run again in November.
Bret Jaspers / KJZZ
"No one should be in the office to represent hundreds of thousands of people by default, and that's what has been happening in this district for a long time," he told his volunteers and staff in a school auditorium High school during the weekend, expecting a surprise on Tuesday.
Candidates in other Arizona races observed this result. Democratic Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican candidate for the United States Senate in what is expected to be a tight race for the general election, joined Lesko at her pre-election rally.
"They will analyze," McSally said, referring to the experts. "And then everything will be like & # 39; Ooh, this is an indication for November & # 39 ;. Then, she has to crush this."