The wide-open Republican primary race to replace Trent Franks included twelve candidates. Of those 12, Debbie Lesko comes out on top winning by double digits. Second and third place respectively was Steve Montenegro (24.19%) and Phil Lovas (23.28%). Debbie Lesko clinched the nomination with 35.98% of the vote. Debbie Lesko will move on to face Hiral Tipirneni in April. Tipirneni defeated her primary opponent by 6100 votes to clinch her nomination. Voter turnout was 22%; which was higher than expectations.
This wide-open race had conservatives endorsing opposing candidates. Ted Cruz endorsed and through his PACs supported Steve Montenegro who has since turned out to have sex scandals of his own. He was also endorsed by Joe Arpaio. Meanwhile, members of the Freedom Caucus endorsed Debie Lesko. She also received backing from multiple local influences. On social media, the candidate of choice was “life coach” Brenden Dilley who had highly amplified Trump rhetoric, like a Paul Nehlen without the Jew-hating. He had an army of Twitter followers some rather influential like Bill Mitchell and Scott Presler help create a facade of traction. In the end, the most formidable and well-liked candidate came out victorious.
The Blue Wave won’t take place in Arizona’s 8th, at least not without a serious scandal. Debbie Lesko has a campaign finance scandal going on, but it’s not significant enough to deter voters thus far. More votes were cast for Lesko than the Democrat’s champion, Hiral Tipirneni.
Social Media Candidates
It’s quite remarkable, the level of devotion social media candidates have whether or not it has any basis in the district they are running for. Brenden Dilley created a cult following on Twitter only to receive a pitiful 633 votes, an 11th place finish. Ever since 2016, social media candidates are emerging. Trump proved that Twitter is a valuable platform that can make a campaign. Brenden Dilley is the first true social media candidate to be tested this election year. And it turns out, he was more than likely running a scam.
This is a risk with social media candidates. On the Democrat side, the Emoji Loving Manning thinks he can take on Ben Cardin for the Senate in Maryland. This is less perilous feat than Brenden Dilley in a wide-open race. We’ll have to see how much tweets can outweigh the cash that Cardin sits on. In foresight, the most formidable is Austin Petersen in Missouri. During the 2016 primary season, he ran as a Libertarian only to lose out to the Gary Johnson. But he built a following and used that to launch a Senate campaign. The rise of social media candidates presents is high risk, high reward for the grassroots.