Congressmen Trent Frank’s sex scandal has led to quite a feeding frenzy to replace him. This would make Arizona District 8 the ninth Congressional special election for Congress since Trump’s inauguration. The solid red district voted Republican by at least a 20 point margin in the last three presidential elections. Democrats stand little chance in this elections. So the competition is which Republican gets the privilege of an easy path to being a Congressman. The replacement will most likely be decided on Tuesday, February 27th. The field of over a dozen candidates can be narrowed down to a few serious contenders. The most serious contenders appear to be Debbie Lesko, Phil Lovas, and Steve Montenegro. All three claim to be conservatives and none of them are obvious establishment players like Martha McSally in Arizona’s Senate race. In this wide-open race with no clear front-runner, endorsements and finances may likely decide the winner.
Fulfilling both of these keys to victory is Ted Cruz. His champion: Steve Montenegro. Ted Cruz endorsed the candidate and his Super PAC currently has $83000 invested in this primary. However, that is all of the credibility capital Montenegro can boast. His other endorsements make him seem like a rabble-rousing Trump sycophant. They include Rick Santorum, the disgraced Trent Frank, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Steve Montenegro’s conservative status doesn’t seem questionable until you see his past support for a popular vote. This raises some major questions.
— BrahmResnik (@brahmresnik) February 5, 2018
Phil Lovas, on the other hand, doesn’t have flashy endorsements but has the nod from Arizona state officials such as Jeff DeWit. Jeff DeWitt was also the national COO/CFO for the Trump campaign. In the live-streamed debate, Phil Lovas boasted his early support for Trump as an outsider. This lends credibility to Lovas, but Trump loyalty isn’t a question among any of the major candidates. All three boast that they will support Trump, meaning these Republicans are saying they aren’t RINOs which is what most say.
In contrast, Debbie Lesko has no shortage of national and local endorsements in this race. She lists them in her article:
I am honored to have the endorsement of former Gov. Jan Brewer and many local leaders including Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord, Litchfield Park Mayor Tom Schoaf and Goodyear Vice Mayor Wally Campbell. I’ve also been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a national prolife organization, and Congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who are the founding members of the conservative U.S. House Freedom Caucus of which Trent Franks was a member. These people know that I have a proven track record of working for my constituents, fighting for the values that have made our nation great and getting things done.
On top of these endorsements, there is also Andy Biggs from the Freedom Caucus. Debbie Lesko certainly benefits from being a major player in Arizona state politics. She has a record of fiscal conservatism in the state legislature and is pro-life.
This race, like the Missouri Senate race, has a social media darling. A “life coach” by the name of Brenden Dilley is on the ballot. However, this social media candidate upped his rhetoric to win the Trump supporter pissing contest. He livestreamed the debate among the candidates that took place last Saturday. Steve Montenegro skipped the debate. Though it was a poor quality (and immaturely done) live stream, I heard Debbie Lesko appeal to her endorsements as credibility and tell a more down to earth story of her becoming a politician. “We need good politicians,” she told the crowd. She even jabbed Arizona’s Senators, John McCain, and Jeff Flake.
If by “most conservative” Montenegro means he does what he’s told, takes no personal stance, & does no research, then yes, hes conservative. But @DebbieLesko is most logical choice! She isn’t afraid of a fight, doesn’t back down, and responds to everyone-even when she disagrees.
— B (@andzmomaz) February 8, 2018
Still waiting for Montenegro to address his cheating on his wife….
— hjoz (@hgjoz) February 6, 2018
— Eileen Mueller (@muellerew) February 12, 2018
It’s hard for conservatives to unite in such a feeding frenzy of a race. In truth, some of the unnamed candidates are likely true conservatives worthy of the office. So perhaps ideology shouldn’t be the deciding factor here. Perhaps conservatives should unite around the candidate most able to accomplish what they campaign on and least likely to act a fool. I think Debbie Lesko stands the best chance to do both. Phil Lovas seems like he would be loyal to Trump, but that’s not a value proposition for a candidate. At this moment, Steve Montenegro’s endorsements hinder him, especially Joe Arpaio. I think Cruz chose a shady candidate. This race is interesting because big names have chosen sides against each other. In recruiting reliable conservatives to join the few in Congress, I trust the Freedom Caucus over Ted Cruz. And I believe they aren’t doing a bad job endorsing Debbie Lesko.