Last week, AZ Central journalists Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen held a podcast gaggle to discuss the political situation in Congressional District (CD) Eight. Current CD Eight Representative Debbie Lesko took part in the gaggle.
The reporters also questioned some voters about what they thought the important issues were and their views on how Lesko was performing.
Unfortunately, neither of the Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination (Michael Muscato, Bob Musselwhite, and Bob Olsen) in the August 4 primary for the opportunity to contest Lesko for the CD Eight seat was interviewed for the Podcast.
According to the Podcast, Arizona Congressional House District Eight, situated in the Northwestern portion of Maricopa County:
- Has a 23 percent senior citizen population.
- Houses 70,000 veterans (mostly from Luke Air Force) residing in the district. This base and the veterans contribute $2.4 billion in revenues to the state.
- Is attracting major corporations to move operations there. Amazon, Honeywell has come to the district. This is thanks to the Freeway expansion that has drawn business to the West Valley.
- Is experiencing a housing boom.
- Has a voting demographic of 41 percent Republican, 26 percent Democrat, and the remainder Independent/Unaffiliated/Third Party.
In a district that brought national attention in 2018 when Dr. Hiral Tipirneni came within striking distance of defeating Lesko in a special election (before losing to her again in the Fall,) the issues for voters in the 2020 elections are:
- Donald Trump
- Medicare and Social Security
- COVID 19/Coronavirus
- The economy including PPE loans and unemployment insurance during the Pandemic.
- Veteran benefits.
Senior Citizens, normally a reliable Republican voting group in past recent elections are signaling a wariness with Mr. Trump and his public pronouncements and Administration policies to cut Medicare and Social Security. They want Social Security and Medicare benefits to increase.
They, also being part of the demographic most susceptible to the Coronavirus, are also critical of his handling of COVID 19.
With Donald Trump scaring them, there are mixed reviews on Lesko’s performance with detractors worried about “her closeness to Donald Trump and the issues of accountability, the soul of the nation, Social Security and Medicare benefits, and how Trump policies have badly affected the district.”
Two of the Democrats looking to win the August 4 Primary to contest and beat Lesko. Michael Muscato and Bob Musselwhite, responding to requests for comment from Blog for Arizona, offered their perspectives on the voters’ concerns on Lesko and her perception of reality on the ground.
Michael Muscato wrote:
“The concerns of voters in this district are valid.”
“Take Gary Carter the independent voter interviewed whose main concerns were government accountability and responsibility. How could anyone who wants that vote for Debbie Lesko? She refuses to debate her opponents, is one of only a few members of congress not to hold in-person public town halls, and pre-screens questions on telephone town halls. In short, she isn’t interested in accountability to her district or anyone who disagrees with her. Look no further than this podcast where Lesko, as usual tries to exaggerate her support for our veterans… Where has she been the past 12 years as our VA system made national news for its failures? Where is she in standing up to intelligence reports that Russia put out a bounty on US and UK troops? That’s not a leader.”
“Lesko’s lone supporter in this interview refers to golf carts…something Lesko continued to rely on for re-election in the Arizona LD21 House and Senate. I’ve got news for Debbie…golf carts ain’t going to cut it this time. Patty had it right, Lesko is like a spider: she weaves a web of lies on her own supporters. Patty should be concerned for her healthcare and retirement and Social Security because the woman she plans to vote for seeks to negatively affect all of the above.”
“Voter Joe said it best – ” she will support anything he (Trump) wants”. Again, that’s not a leader.”
“Notice no attention was paid to the fact Lesko early lost the special election in 2018, winning by only 4.5% nor was the fact she only won a district in the general by 10pts that Trump won handily (21pts) . The bottom line here is that Independent voters know Lesko isn’t working for them, Republican voters know Lesko isn’t working for them, and Democratic turnout will be higher than ever.”
“Arizona’s Eighth Congressional district has changed a lot since 2018 when the district came within 4.5% of flipping. The demographics of this district have become younger, more diversified, and slightly more favorable in the democratic favor. This election, AZ-08 won’t just have the choice between a Democrat or Republican. They will have the choice between a career AZ politician and a challenger who is born and raised here in the district. The job of congress is to represent the people of the district and there is no candidate more suited to do that here than me.”
“I know this district like the back of my hand. Every mile is a memory and every person here has either grown up alongside me or helped me get where I am today. For this reason, being in this position to oppose her, is the greatest honor of my life. The pundits aren’t talking to republicans and independents, but this campaign has been doing that for the 36 years I’ve been alive. I’m not like their “Fox news version” of a Democrat and they recognize that. They know I’ll fight for everyone in this district and they recognize that I’m fighting for them too when I say our hometown is always worth fighting for. That better and more affordable healthcare, a better life for our children, and an economy that works for our families isn’t a partisan problem. And they realize that Lesko has been in office for 12 years here in Arizona, while I’ve been working hard alongside those who kept electing her. We are all tired of being sold out and lied to. We are all tired of partisanship over people.”
“We will defeat Lesko by 4%. Take it to the bank.”
Bob Musselwhite stated:
“Every single one of the citizens who responded mentioned their desire for a government that is stable and dependable to deliver the benefits they have earned over a lifetime of hard work. They will not find that stability in Donald Trump or his close allies such as Debbie Lesko who measures their success not in doing the right thing for the American people but rather in terms of dollars. Retired people depend on a number of sources to sustain them and all of those supports are threatened by the Trump Lesko mentality that puts money ahead of people. The champion of the privatization of social security in Congress which would have sent part of our social security for profits was Trent Franks from CD8. People need to be very careful who they elect to Congress if they want their full benefits assured.”
“After a year and a half, our representative in Congress Debbie Lesko seems to be unaware of events in the West Valley such as the Covid19 pandemic that is killing Arizonans particularly the age group found in CD8 the hit our businesses are taking and the Red for Ed movement. What on Earth is taking up her attention in Washington?”
“Furthermore, Debbie does not seem too sure where CD8 is located going by her comments. The 303 is which is the newest freeway and most of Goodyear where she claimed a new industry is going in is not. The I-17 portions are only in Anthem. She also did not mention farming operations that are clearly in or the new casino that is in.”
In the Podcast, Lesko thinks the majority will support her and Trump in November.
Both Sanchez and Hansen think that is probable as well.
However, most did not think Donald Trump could become President in 2016. Most pundits thought David Schipara, not Kathy Hoffman, would be the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction nominee in 2018.
With a district with a quarter of the population 65 or older in a health crisis and senior support sagging for Trump, anything can happen with the down-ticket races, especially to candidates like Ms. Lesko who (remember she was one of his Impeachment trial defenders and made the pilgrimage to the maskless rally in Tulsa) has tethered herself to the 2016 Popular Vote Loser and his policies that could potentially hurt so many of her constituents.
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