Rating Change: Arizona 8 Special Gets More Vulnerable

by Nathan L. Gonzales February 28, 2018 · 9:52 AM EST

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

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.

Democrats haven’t invested a significant amount of money into the race at this point, but will likely poll the race now that the nominees are set in order to take a fresh look at the situation.

Democrats nominated Hiral Tipirneni, a doctor who immigrated to the United States from India when she was three years old. She’s not a household name yet, but seems likely to get more attention, particularly if Conor Lamb wins the Pennsylvania 18 special election in a couple weeks

You can read a baseline analysis on the special election race for Arizona’s 8th District in the Jan. 19 issue of Inside Elections.