Arizona special election: AP projects Lesko the winner

PHOTO: Republican State Rep. Debbie Lesko and Democrat Dr. Hiral Tipirneni are competing for a congressional seat in Arizonas special election on April 24, 2018.PlayAP
WATCH Arizona special election: AP projects Lesko the winner

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Democrats and Republicans are watching the Arizona special election for signs of their political standing leading into the November midterms.

A Democratic loss by a single digit will be seen by that party as a "symbolic victory" and as evidence that enthusiasm remains strong. However, Republicans seeking to guard their deep-red stronghold worry that a loss could signal that their hold on the House of Representatives is in trouble.

Facing off tonight is Democrat and cancer research advocate Hiral Tiperneni against Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko.

PHOTO: A sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz., April 11, 2018. Anita Snow/AP
A sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz., April 11, 2018.

11:09 PM — Associated Press projects Lesko the winner

Shortly after early returns were in, the Associated Press has projected that Debbie Lesko, the Republican, has defeated Hiral Tipirneni, the Democrat, keeping the seat in GOP control.

11:05 PM — First results show Lesko, the Republican, leading by 6 points

First results are in, with 74% of the expected vote reporting Republican Debbie Lesko is leading Democrat Hiral Tipirneni by just under 6 points.

Lesko (R): 82,294 (52.9%) Tipirneni (D): 73,188 (47.1%)

These are likely the bulk of the early/mail-in votes that were cast on or prior to election day. The next votes to be tallied are those that were cast on election day.

10:00 PM — Polls have closed

Polls closed at 7pm MST (10pm EST) but Arizona requires its Secretary of State’s office to withhold results until an hour after polls close, so first results will not start coming in until at least 8pm MST (11pm EST).

8:58 PM — Candidates tweet with voters

Democrat Hiral Tiperneni tweeted about how she ran into a voter on Election Day in Arizona.

Tiperneni, who immigrated to the U.S. from India at the age of 3, earlier in the day tweeted a photo of her ballot and husband.

Republican candidate Debbie Lesko had a quieter social media presence. She did retweet a few volunteers who were out canvassing for her.

7:26 PM — Conor Lamb roots for Tiperneni

Rep. Conor Lamb, the Democrat who won Pennsylvania's special election last month, tweeted out a good luck message to Democrat Hiral Tiperneni in her election tonight.

Lamb, who won a district President Donald Trump carried by 20 points, wrote that Tiperneni "is a great candidate who's run a grassroots campaign against the same super PACs & special interests we faced in PA." He urged Arizona voters to support her.

6:31 PM — Arizona Special: It's not like Pennsylvania's contest

FiveThirtyEight, a partner of ABC News, reports that for Democratic candidate Hiral Tiperneni to win, she would need to outperform Conor Lamb's numbers in last month's special election in Pennsylvania.

They note the voters in the district are older and white (the area is popular with retires) and these voters tend to vote Republican.

In their analysis, they conclude: "Even if, as expected, Democrats do lose this race, it could still be good news for their prospects in November. The key question to ask is this: How much did Tipirneni outperform partisan-lean-based expectations by?"

FiveThirtyEight also discussed the special election in their podcast.

During the conversation, politics writer Clare Malone points out the Arizona contest is not like the March special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.

"Pennsylvania has a more recent history of voting Democratic," she said, adding that tonight's contest is "a bit of a different political landscape."

The entire podcast can be heard here.

PHOTO: In this April 10, 2018, photo, Democratic candidate for the Arizona 8th Congressional District special election Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, center, talks with supporters at a local restaurant in Sun City, Ariz.Ross D. Franklin/AP, FILE
In this April 10, 2018, photo, Democratic candidate for the Arizona 8th Congressional District special election Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, center, talks with supporters at a local restaurant in Sun City, Ariz.

5:25 PM — By the Numbers

Since the April 17th primary, where both candidates faced fairly competitive races, Republican Debbie Lesko has outraised Democrat Hiral Tiperneni.

Lesko has brought in $350,748, according to Federal Election Commission data, while Tiperneni has raised $229,335.

Since after the primary, outside groups have spent a total of $1,357,590 on the race, overwhelmingly in favor of Lesko.

4:30 PM — Trump tweets for GOP candidate

President Donald Trump waded into the election with a tweet encouraging people to vote for Republican candidate Debbie Lesko.

Arizona has a history of strong early voting. As of Monday, 155,694 voters had cast ballots, according to early voting data from the Arizona secretary of state's office. The district has 455,660 registered voters.

Lesko is favored to win but the president's tweet could be an effort to pump up the final margins. Most Democrats would consider it a “victory” of sorts if their candidate, Hiral Tiperneni, loses by single digits.

6:00 AM — Polls have opened

Polls opened in Arizona at 6am MST (9am EST) for a special election to replace former Republican Rep. Trent Franks in the 8th Congressional District.

A strong performance by the Democratic candidate in this deeply red district would be another sign of the party's enthusiasm and growing strength ahead of the 2018 midterm election.

The race pits Democrat and cancer research advocate Hiral Tiperneni against Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko.

The deeply red district is composed of Maricopa County -- the home of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a hero to the conservative movement. President Donald Trump won the district by 21 points.

Franks resigned on December 8, 2017, after an investigation was launched into conversations he had with members of his staff.

The special election will determine who represents the seat through January 2019. Whoever wins the seat on Tuesday night will have to run and win again in both in the August primary in Arizona, and the general election in November to hold the seat.

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