Arizona Republicans dodged what one GOP operative called a potential "Roy Moore situation" Tuesday when former state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R) beat former state Senate colleague Steve Montenegro (R) in the Republican primary for an April 24 election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Trent Franks (R) in December. Lesko, endorsed by former Gov. Jan Brewer (R), had 36 percent of the vote in the 12-candidate field, while Montenegro, backed by Franks and Sen. Ted Cruz (R), had 24 percent, according to partial returns. The Associated Press named her the winner, and Montenegro conceded.
Montenegro, a married Christian minister, has been buffeted for a week by revelations that he traded salacious text messages with a former aide, who also sent him at least one nude photo. It's not clear how much that scandal affected the race, since most of the ballots had been mailed in by the time the scandal hit. Lesko was accused by one of her GOP opponents of illegally transferring $50,000 from her state Senate coffers to a PAC supporter her congressional campaign.
On the Democratic side, Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician, beat transgender activist Brianna Westbrook. Lesko is favored to win the seat.