Voters in Arizona's 8th congressional district will pick their candidates Tuesday for an April 27 special election to replace Rep. Trent Franks (R), who resigned in December after it emerged that he asked two staffers to have a child for him and his wife, through nebulous methods, for $5 million. The suburban Phoenix district is solidly Republican — President Trump won it by 21 points in 2016 — but both of the GOP frontrunners have their own scandals, and some Republicans are worried. Former state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R) is accused of illegally donating $50,000 from her state Senate account to a PAC supporting her congressional campaign, but most of the attention is on the sexting scandal involving former state Sen. Steve Montenegro (R).
Montenegro, a married father and a Christian minister, acknowledged last week that a former Senate aide had sent him a topless photo as part of a months-long exchange of salacious text messages. An attorney for the aide, Stephanie Holford, said Holford had sent several nude photos to Montenegro. The candidate initially denied the claims, but after several newspapers printed excerpts from the text exchange, he told the Washington Examiner that he had not solicited the topless photo and "did not have any inappropriate relationships with this woman."
Despite the sexting scandal, Montenegro may well win, as an estimated 75 percent of voters in the district had already mailed in their ballots by the time the scandal broke last week. And if he does win the GOP primary, "it could be Alabama all over again," Shiree Verdone, who ran Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2010 Senate race, tells Politico. "Deep down, I'm worried because I don't want this to be another Roy Moore situation." Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician backed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), is expected to beat fellow political newcomer Brianna Westbrook for the Democratic nomination, but even with the scandal, whichever Democrat wins faces an uphill battle.