Arizona GOP lawmakers Ben Toma, Anthony Kern set sights on West Valley congressional seat

Nov 1, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, left, and state Sen. Anthony Kern have set their sights on U.S. Rep...

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, left, and state Sen. Anthony Kern have set their sights on U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko’s West Valley congressional seat. (Arizona State Legislature and Photos)

(Arizona State Legislature and Photos)

PHOENIX – Two GOP members of the Arizona Legislature have set their sights on U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko’s West Valley congressional seat.

State House Speaker Ben Toma and Sen. Anthony Kern are the latest high-profile Republicans to express interest in succeeding Lesko, who announced two weeks ago she won’t seek reelection in 2024.

Toma and Kern both serve the 27th Legislative District, which is mostly within Lesko’s GOP-leaning 8th Congressional District. CD8 covers northwest Phoenix and adjoining suburban areas.

Toma hasn’t made an official announcement, but he filed a statement of interest with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday. In addition, the website he used when running for the Legislature has been retooled for a congressional run.

Kern announced his intentions on social media Monday and also has an updated campaign website.

Who else is running for Rep. Debbie Lesko’s seat in Congress?

The two conservative lawmakers join a Republican primary field that already includes Abe Hamadeh, the losing 2022 nominee for state attorney general, and Blake Masters, who lost his U.S. Senate bid in last year’s general election.

Hamadeh lives in Scottsdale and Masters in Tucson. U.S. House members are required to be residents of the state they represent, but not necessarily the district.

And in another twist, Republican Trent Franks, who held the seat before Lesko, announced Wednesday he was running to return to Congress.

Franks resigned in 2017 in the midst of a scandal over discussions he had about surrogacy with at least two staffers.

According to the Federal Elections Commission database, Democrats Gregory Whitten and Bernadette Greene Placentia and independent Jeremy Spreitzer have also submitted fundraising paperwork for the CD8 seat.

Ten other candidates have filed statements of interest for the Lesko’s seat with the state: Republicans Nick Kupper, Jon Forsythe, Rollie Stevens, Seth Coates, Isiah Gallegos and Jimmy Rodriguez, and Democrats Jim Holmes, Marc Lewis, Steven Sawdy and Donald Case.

Rodriguez is the only Republican who filed before Lesko announced Oct. 17 she was leaving Congress at the end of her term in January 2025.

Statements of interest must be submitted before a candidate can start collecting signatures for nominating petitions.

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Arizona GOP lawmakers Ben Toma, Anthony Kern set sights on West Valley congressional seat