Rep. Debbie Lesko endorses Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma in race to succeed her

Nov 3, 2023, 10:36 AM

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma has the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko in the race to succeed...

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma has the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko in the race to succeed her in Congress. (Arizona Legislature and Getty Images Photos)

(Arizona Legislature and Getty Images Photos)

PHOENIX — If it were up to Republican U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma would be her successor in Congress.

Lesko, who announced earlier this month she won’t be seeking reelection in 2024, said Thursday she was endorsing Toma in the crowded GOP primary for the 8th Congressional District.

Toma represents the 27th Legislative District, which is mostly within Lesko’s West Valley district.

Why did Rep. Debbie Lesko endorse Arizona House speaker?

“As a legislator and speaker of the Arizona House, Ben has a proven, conservative track record for getting things done and for standing up for the principles that have made our nation great. Now, more than ever, we need principled, experienced leaders, like Ben Toma, who will stand up for our values and advance our conservative priorities in Congress,” Lesko said in a statement.

Lesko’s statement made note of Toma’s place of residence, an issue because two of the best-known GOP candidates — Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters — don’t live in CD8, a Republican stronghold that covers northwest Phoenix and adjoining West Valley suburbs.

“Ben Toma lives in our district. He knows our district. He cares about the people that live in our district,” Lesko said.

Hamadeh, who was narrowly defeated by Kris Mayes in the 2022 state attorney general race, lives in Scottsdale. Masters, who lost to U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly in last year’s general election, resides in Tucson. U.S. House members are required to be residents of the state they represent, but not necessarily the district.

How many Republicans are interested in Debbie Lesko’ seat?

Lesko’s endorsement capped a two-week-plus flurry of Republican activity following her surprising announcement Oct. 17 that she said she was leaving office in January 2025 after serving out her current term.

At least 10 Republicans have either announced their candidacy or filed statements of interest for the seat since the announcement.

Among them are state Sen. Anthony Kern and former Congressman Trent Franks, who represented Lesko’s district for 15 years before resigning in 2017 after asking female staffers to carry his child, allegedly offering $5 million to one woman.

Why did Ben Toma decide to run for Congress?

Toma filed his statement of interest with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday but didn’t make a formal announcement until shortly before Lesko endorsed him Thursday.

He said the Republican party needs to unite to avoid losing its congressional majority and keep President Joe Biden from being reelected next year.

“Just as I have led the Republican caucus in the Arizona State House, I will work tirelessly to unify our party in Congress and advance a conservative agenda to change the direction of our country,” Toma said in his announcement.

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Rep. Debbie Lesko endorses Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma in race to succeed her