This article needs to be updated.November 2020)(
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Arizona's 8th district
|Assumed office |
May 7, 2018
|Preceded by||Trent Franks|
|President pro tempore of the Arizona Senate|
January 9, 2017 – January 8, 2018
|Preceded by||Sylvia Allen|
|Succeeded by||John Kavanagh|
|Member of the Arizona Senate|
from the 21st district
January 12, 2015 – January 8, 2018
|Preceded by||Rick Murphy|
|Succeeded by||Rick Gray|
|Member of the Arizona House of Representatives|
from the 21st district
January 14, 2013 – January 12, 2015
|Preceded by||J. D. Mesnard|
|Succeeded by||Tony Rivero|
|Member of the Arizona House of Representatives|
from the 9th district
January 9, 2009 – January 14, 2013
|Preceded by||Bob Stump|
|Succeeded by||Victoria Steele|
Debra Kay Lorenz
November 14, 1958
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S.
(m. 1985; div. 1993)
|Education||University of Wisconsin–Madison (BA)|
Debra Kay Lesko (née Lorenz; born November 14, 1958) is an American politician and a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Arizona's 8th congressional district. The district is located in the West Valley portion of the Valley of the Sun and includes Glendale, Surprise, Sun City, Peoria, and part of western Phoenix.
Lesko served in the Arizona Senate from 2015 to 2018. She was president pro tempore of the Arizona Senate from 2017 to 2018. Lesko also served as a member of Arizona House of Representatives from 2009 until 2015.
Lesko won the Republican nomination for Arizona's 8th congressional district special election. She won the election on April 24, defeating Democratic nominee Hiral Tipirneni with 52.4% of the vote to Tipirneni's 47.6%. She won a full term in November 2018, again defeating Tipirneni. Lesko is Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues. She is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Early life and education
Lesko was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and grew up nearby, the daughter of Delores and Don Lorenz. She received a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Wisconsin and in the 1980s moved to Arizona, owning a construction sales business.
In 1985, she married Jeffrey Allen Ignas. In 1988, Lesko was charged in Conroe, Texas with a misdemeanor for tampering with government records. The case was dropped in 1994. In 1988, Ignas was sentenced to 10 years in prison due to a fraud case from 1985. After serving only 4 years of the 10-year sentence, he was released from prison in 1992. Later in October 1992, he and Lesko filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. The couple was also sued twice in 1993: once for failure to pay a $10,000 rental equipment bill and a second for an additional $11,000 unpaid bill. They filed for bankruptcy again that year. Aside from financial and legal challenges, Ignas was physically abusive to Lesko, including punching her in the stomach when she was pregnant with her daughter. In 1993, Lesko filed for divorce from Ignas. The following year, the second bankruptcy protection case was closed. She later remarried, marrying Joe Lesko.
This section needs expansion with: information about Arizona Legislature.. You can help by adding to it. (January 2021)
In the early-2000s, Lesko became involved in the Peoria Unified School District. She served on the district's community committee. In 2006, she ran for school board. She was endorsed by Trent Franks. She placed fourth out of five candidates. She participated in school board meetings and was a contributor to the Arizona Republic. In her contributions to the newspaper, she wrote opinion pieces about illegal immigration and domestic violence.
U.S. House of Representatives
2018 special election
On December 20, 2017, Lesko announced she would run in the special election to replace fellow Republican congressman Trent Franks, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Her state senate district included the bulk of the congressional district. She also announced that she would resign from the Arizona Senate. Although Arizona's resign-to-run laws would have allowed her to remain in the state senate since she was running in a special election (and she was in the final year of her term in any event), she resigned her seat on January 8, 2018.
Lesko won the Republican nomination and faced the Democratic candidate, physician Hiral Tipirneni, in the general election on April 24. She was endorsed by President Donald Trump who said that Lesko was a "conservative Republican".
She won the election on April 24, beating Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni with 52.6% of the vote to Tipirneni's 47.4. The win was by a narrower margin than expected, with observers suggesting that it was indicative of a coming Democratic wave in the 2018 mid-term elections. It was the closest contest in what is now the 8th since 1976, when Bob Stump won what was then the 3rd District with just 47 percent of the vote (the district was renumbered as the 2nd in 2003, and has been the 8th since 2013).
According to the Associated Press, the election sent "a big message to Republicans nationwide: Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year."
Lesko faced a rematch with Tipirneni in a bid for a full two-year term and won with a slightly wider margin, taking 55.5% to Tipirneni's 44.5 percent. It was still the closest general election in the district in 42 years, and the closest that a Democrat had come to winning a full term in the district since Stump switched parties in 1982.
Campaign finance complaints
In January 2018, Lesko's campaign committee, Re-elect Debbie Lesko for Senate, gave $50,000 to Conservative Leadership for Arizona, a federal PAC authorized to spend independently of other campaigns. It was created eight days before taking the money from Lesko's state campaign committee. The new PAC raised almost no other cash, records show, and the PAC used the money to support Lesko with yard signs, while her congressional campaign spent heavily on TV ads. Phil Lovas, a candidate in the Republican primary, complained to the Federal Election Commission and Arizona Attorney General alleging multiple violations in February 2018.
The PAC maneuver also prompted criticism from the other Lesko opponent in the Republican primary, Steve Montenegro, who accused Lesko of "illegally funneling money into her SuperPAC and knowingly lied about it by filing false campaign reports." A second complaint alleging federal campaign finance law violations was filed against Lesko in March 2018 by the Campaign Legal Center alleging that her transfer of $50,000 from her state campaign to an independent group that spent nearly all the cash backing her congressional run was illegal.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she appeared at a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma at a time when coronavirus cases were surging across the nation. When asked about the public health risk posed by the rally, she responded, "I think the Trump administration and the campaign is doing all it can by doing temperature checks and handing out masks." She defended the decision by the organizers of the rally not to require face masks. During the time, she posted pictures of herself among people; in some she wore a mask, in other pictures she did not.
- Committee on Homeland Security
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Committee on Rules
Lesko opposes abortion. She has proposed legislation to give employers religious exemptions from providing contraceptives in health insurance plans. She has proposed legislation that would allow health officials to conduct warrantless and unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, like they do for all other health institutions in the state, which critics said undermined the privacy of patients at the clinics.
Lesko has been described as a loyal Trump ally. In December 2019, she voted against impeaching President Trump. She said there is "no proof, none, that the president has committed an impeachable offense." In defending Trump, she claimed that Trump had not asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
In December 2020, Lesko was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who signed an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden prevailed over incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of the election held by another state.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion." Additionally, Pelosi reprimanded Lesko and the other House members who supported the lawsuit: "The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House. Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions." New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, citing section three of the 14th Amendment, called for Pelosi to not seat Lesko and the other Republicans who signed the brief supporting the suit. Pascrell argued that "the text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States. Trying to overturn a democratic election and install a dictator seems like a pretty clear example of that."
Economy, taxes and regulation
Lesko has said that she would have voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Republican Party's 2017 tax overhaul. She favors a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and said that "on the federal level, there has to be a lot of areas where we can cut spending."
In 2016, she opposed efforts to increase the minimum wage in Arizona to $10 by 2017 and then to $12 by 2020.
Environment and energy
Asked at a debate involving seven candidates in January 2018 whether she believed that humans contribute to climate change, Lesko did not raise her hand. After a long pause, she said that the question was "loaded" and added, "Is some of it, maybe, human-caused? Possibly. But certainly not the majority of it. I think it just goes through cycles and it has to do a lot with the sun. So no, I'm not a global warming proponent."
In 2016, Lesko crafted a measure that would give state utilities in Arizona the right to charge separate rates for customers who produced their own energy through solar panels in order to prevent $600 million in subsidies from non-solar customers to solar customers. Lesko crafted the measure with the assistance of utilities.
Lesko opposes "universal health coverage" and favors repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She opposed Arizona's expansion of Medicaid coverage and sued former Arizona governor Jan Brewer after she expanded Medicaid.
During her 2018 campaign, Lesko made the construction of a border wall on the Mexico border the centerpiece of her campaign, and she pledged to back the Trump administration's hardline positions on border security and immigration reform.
Lesko strongly opposes the Equality Act, a bill that would expand the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She urged Congress members to vote against the bill.
- 2014 – Lesko ran for the open Arizona Senate District 21 held by retiring senator Rick Murphy. She was unopposed in the Republican primary. Lesko defeated Carolyn Vasko in the general election with 32,119 votes.
- 2012 – Redistricted to District 21 alongside fellow Republican Representative Rick Gray, and with incumbent Republican Representatives Thomas Forese and J. D. Mesnard redistricted to District 17, Lesko ran in the August 28, 2012 Republican Primary, placing first with 14,771 votes; in the five-way November 6, 2012 General election, Lesko took the first seat with 41,023 votes and Representative Gray took the second seat ahead of Democratic nomines Carol Lokare, Sheri Van Horsen (who had run for Legislature seats in 2006, 2008, and 2010) and a Libertarian write-in candidate.
- 2010 – With Representative Murphy running for Arizona Senate leaving a District 9 seat open, Lesko ran in the August 24, 2010 Republican Primary and placed first with 14,498 votes; in the three-way November 2, 2010 General election, Lesko took the first seat with 32,423 votes, fellow Republican nominee Rick Gray took the second seat ahead of Democratic nominee Shirley McAllister.
- 2008 – With incumbent Republican Representative Bob Stump running for Arizona Corporation Commission and leaving a District 9 seat open, Representative Rick Murphy and Lesko were unopposed for the September 2, 2008 Republican Primary; Lesko placed first with 10,902 votes and Representative Murphy placed second; in the November 4, 2008 General election, Lesko took the first seat with 37,762 votes and Representative Murphy took the second seat ahead of Democratic nominees Sheri Van Horsen (who had run for the seat in 2006) and Shawn Hutchinson.
|U.S. House, Arizona District 8 Republican Primary, 2018|
|Republican||Steve B Montenegro||16,987||23.82|
|Republican||Clair Van Steenwyk||1,692||2.37|
|Republican||Clair Van Steenwyk||1,787||2.34%|
|Republican||Debbie Lesko (incumbent)||73,776||77.17%|
|Republican||Sandra E. Dowling||21,825||22.83%|
|Republican||Debbie Lesko (incumbent)||168,835||55.46%|
|Republican||Debbie Lesko (incumbent)||251,633||59.6|
Lesko has used other names including Debbie Harris, Debra Ignas, Debra Schultz, Debra Howard and Debra Kay Lorenz. Lesko's name changes were associated with her ex-husband, who also went by different names.
- "Debbie Lesko". Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona State Legislature. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- "Trent Franks stepping down from Congress amid complaints from 2 former female staffers". Arizona Republic. December 12, 2017.
- Martin, Jonathan (April 24, 2018). "Debbie Lesko Wins Arizona Special Election for Congress, Rallying G.O.P." The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- Greg Giroux, Ready for Congress: Meet Rep.-Elect Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.
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- "GOP Unsettled by Narrow Win in US House Race in Arizona". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 25, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- Arizona 2018 House results from CNN
- Hansen, Ronald J. (February 21, 2018). "Debbie Lesko accused of moving $50K from campaign to a PAC that backs ... Lesko". Arizona Republic.
- "GOP primary winner, Debbie Lesko, faces 2nd federal election law complaint". Associated Press. March 2, 2018.
- Hansen, Cleo Krejci and Ronald J. "In Tulsa for Trump's rally, Rep. Debbie Lesko sometimes wore a mask, sometimes didn't". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
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- Tara Golshan (April 16, 2018). "Republicans aren't taking chances in the Arizona special election to replace Trent Franks". Vox.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Contraception exemption bill may be finished". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Press, Michelle L. Price The Associated. "Glendale lawmaker defends her birth-control bill". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Birth-control-exclusion bill goes to Arizona Senate". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "House approves unannounced, warrantless abortion clinic inspections". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Swenson, Ali (December 18, 2019). "How Each Arizona Representative Voted on President Donald Trump's Impeachment". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
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- "The GOP's closing impeachment argument: Denying basic facts". The Washington Post. 2019.
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- "Order in Pending Case" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. December 11, 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020. Cite error: The named reference ":1" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
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- "Pelosi Statement on Supreme Court Rejecting GOP Election Sabotage Lawsuit" (Press release). Speaker Nancy Pelosi. December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
- Williams, Jordan (December 11, 2020). "Democrat asks Pelosi to refuse to seat lawmakers supporting Trump's election challenges". TheHill. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
- Ronald J. Hansen (April 12, 2018). "Lesko, Tipirneni contrast views on health, taxes and guns in final CD8 joint appearance". Arizona Republic.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Effort to offer high-interest loans in Arizona appears to be dead". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Proposed bill seeks to allow AZ lenders to offer new high-interest loan". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Backers of higher Arizona minimum wage use extra cash to target candidates". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Joshua Bowling (January 30, 2018). "Here's where West Valley congressional candidates stand on climate change". The Arizona Republic.
- Services, Howard Fischer Capitol Media. "Measure allows utilities to charge separate rates for solar customers". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- "Check out Representative Debbie Lesko's Environmental Voting Record". League of Conservation Voters Scorecard. March 2, 2020.
- "Repeal Of Health Law Could Force Tough Decisions For Arizona Republicans". NPR.org. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- "Debbie Lesko keeps Arizona 8th in GOP hands in special election". USA TODAY. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- "GOP scrambles to avert another election dumpster fire". POLITICO. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- "House Debate on the Equality Act". C-SPAN. May 17, 2019.
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- "State of Arizona Official Canvass 2010 Primary Election – August 24, 2010" (PDF). Phoenix, Arizona: Secretary of State of Arizona. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
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- Almukhtar, Sarah (April 24, 2018). "Arizona Special Election Results: Eighth House District". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- "2018 Arizona primary special election results" (PDF). Retrieved June 9, 2019.
- "Official Canvas of Special General Election" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
- "State of Arizona - Official Canvass - 2020 General Election" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- "Rep. Lesko faced legal, money problems during 1st marriage". AP NEWS. October 24, 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Debbie Lesko.|
- Congresswoman Debbie Lesko official U.S. House website
- Debbie Lesko for Congress official campaign website
- Debbie Lesko at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
|Arizona House of Representatives|
| Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 9th district
Served alongside: Rick Murphy, Rick Gray
J. D. Mesnard
| Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 21st district
Served alongside: Rick Gray
| Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 21st district
| President pro tempore of the Arizona Senate
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority
|115th||Senate: J. McCain • J. Kyl • J. Flake||House: T. Franks • R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • K. Sinema • R. Gallego • M. McSally • A. Biggs • T. O'Halleran • D. Lesko|
|116th||Senate: K. Sinema • M. McSally • M. Kelly||House: R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • A. Kirkpatrick • R. Gallego • A. Biggs • T. O'Halleran • D. Lesko • G. Stanton|
|117th||Senate: K. Sinema • M. Kelly||House: R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • A. Kirkpatrick • R. Gallego • A. Biggs • T. O'Halleran • D. Lesko • G. Stanton|