Retirement of Debbie Lesko in Arizona leads to messy GOP primary for her seat

 December 26, 2023

The GOP primary for Rep. Debbie Lesko's (R) House seat in Arizona has turned out to be messy, with at least five prominent Republicans in her district lining up to see who will likely replace her in the safe seat for Republicans. 

Lesko decided in mid-October to retire from Congress and come back home to Arizona, saying she missed her family and wanted to spend more time with them, especially her 94-year-old mother and her five grandchildren.

The lawmaker is serving her third term in the House, and said it was more difficult than she expected to spend three out of every four weeks in Washington, D.C., especially when Congress is divided and it is very difficult to pass meaningful legislation.

Plenty of other Republicans seem to be just fine with the commute to Washington, however.

The hopefuls

Former GOP attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh, former GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, state Sen. Anthony Kern and former Republican Rep. Trent Franks are all running for the chance to succeed Lesko in 2024.

Lesko was first elected in 2018 in a special election to replace Franks, who stepped down because of allegations of sexual misconduct at the time, including asking two women in his office if they would be surrogates and carry a child for him and his wife, who struggled with infertility.

Part of the reasoning of his resignation in December 2017 was also because his wife had a health crisis at the time.

Evidently, Franks is hoping enough time has passed for people to forget about the accusations, which were never substantiated, although he admitted to and apologized for discussing surrogacy with women who worked for him.

"No doubt"

“There is no doubt that an open seat in a safe district will draw a number of people who envision themselves as a congressman for 20 years, or as a stepping stone to something else,” Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican strategist, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Hamadeh was endorsed in 2022 by former President Donald Trump for attorney general and lost by only 300 votes, prompting a lawsuit over irregularities that was largely shut down by Katie Hobbs (D), then Secretary of State and now the governor.

Trump has also endorsed Hamadeh for the House seat, and he also has the support of Kari Lake (R), who ran for governor in 2022 and lost to Hobbs.

He has said that the most "important issues facing the nation are “the weaponization of our institutions against political opponents,” the southern border and “a crisis of leadership in Washington.”


The frontrunner in the race right now according to polls is Masters, who was also endorsed by Trump in his 2022 Senate race against Mark Kelly (D), which he lost by five points.

Masters, who leads polls by about 10 points, said he’d focus on securing the border, reducing inflation, bolstering the economy and securing “Arizona’s water future,” and would also use his background as a businessman in technology to combat the threats of “Big Tech.”

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