Republican candidates to replace outgoing Rep. Debbie Lesko debate

Five Republican candidates vying to replace outgoing U.S. Rep Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) took the debate stage on Tuesday in an effort to position themselves as the front runner in Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

Lesko has served as a member of the House of Representatives since 2018 and represents the district in the northwest part of the Valley.

The primary is scheduled to take place on July 30.

The five candidates who were seated at the debate included Trent Franks, Abe Hamadeh, Anthony Kern, Blake Masters and Ben Toma.

What were the debate highlights?

Hamadeh, who lost to Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes in the 2022 race for the position by 280 votes in an election that saw more than 2.5 million ballots cast, is a former prosecutor and U.S. Army officer. He is also endorsed by former President Trump.

Hamadeh stressed the importance of improving the nation's economy saying, "the first thing we need to do is go back to pre-pandemic spending."

All candidates took turns criticizing the fiscal policy of the current administration.

Kern is an Arizona State senator who was named as one of the 11 Republicans indicted in an alleged fake elector scheme that attempted to overturn Arizona's 2020 Presidential election results from President Joe Biden to favor former President Donald Trump.

The subject came up during the debate with Kern saying if there were requirements for him to be at a trial, it would not interfere with his campaign efforts.

Franks was a U.S. House Representative from 2003 until his resignation in 2017 when it was revealed he discussed arranging a surrogacy with one of his female staffers. In the debate Franks stated that he had a lot of regret from the incident seven years ago.

Masters, who ran for the U.S. Senate seat in 2022 and lost by 5 points to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), said during the debate that he would advocate for the character of Kern and Franks, despite the controversy surrounding both opponents.

Masters also had some choice words in describing the indictments against the 11 local politicians who were named as conspirators in the fake elector lawsuit and said Mayes - who helped file charges in that case - was, "a deranged communist."

Toma is the current Arizona Speaker of the House.

What else is there to know about the race?

As previously mentioned, the congressional district compensates the northwest Valley including Peoria, Surprise and parts of Phoenix. A map of the district can be seen below. photo

Pat Briody is also running for the position but did not participate in the debate.

The state currently has nine congressional districts with Republicans holding six of those seats to the Democrats three.