Democrats get some good news even as they are projected to lose in a heavily Republican House district in Arizona

Key Points
  • Republican Debbie Lesko is projected to win Arizona's 8th District House special election over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni.
  • Lesko's expected 5 percentage point margin of victory provides some hope for Democrats.
  • The election is the latest in a string of results in which Democrats beat their 2016 performance.
The Arizona special election loss holds good news for Democrats

Democrats have reason for optimism despite a loss in a special election for a House seat in Arizona.

Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko is projected to win Tuesday's election over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician, in Arizona's solidly red 8th District, according to NBC News. The GOP is expected to notch about a 5 percentage point win and avoid its second special election debacle in two months.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to congratulate Lesko for her "big win," saying she will do a "great job" in Congress. He suggested media outlets were "silent" about the result because a Republican won, even though every major political news site covered the election.

Trump tweet

That's about where the good news ends for Republicans. Democrats added to a string of special elections in which they easily outperformed recent results in red areas. Trump had won the Arizona district by more than 20 percentage points in 2016.

That buoys Democratic hopes of potentially flipping the dozens of GOP-held districts that either Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by a closer margin. The minority party aims to win 23 Republican-held House seats in November to take a majority in the chamber.

The result could also give more hope to Democrats ahead of a Senate election in Arizona in November. The party likely needs to win the seat currently held by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake if it has any chance of winning a Senate majority. Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in states Trump won in 2016, giving them a difficult path to a majority.

Even though Tipirneni came up short, her performance adds to a string of results in which Democrats outpaced their 2016 performance:

  • Arizona 8th District: Lesko is projected to beat Tipirneni by about 5 percentage points, a 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent margin. Trump won the district by about 21 percentage points in 2016, while former GOP Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, won about 68 percent of the vote that year.
  • Pennsylvania 18th District: In 2016, former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy ran unopposed for the House seat. Trump won the district by 20 percentage points. Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, meanwhile, won March's special election for the seat by fewer than 1,000 votes.
  • Alabama Senate: In a special election in the deep red state last year, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones defeated Republican ex-Judge Roy Moore by 2 percentage points. Trump and GOP Sen. Richard Shelby both carried Alabama by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016. In this case, the Republican candidate himself made the race more competitive: Moore faced allegations of sexually abusing teenagers decades ago when he was in his 30s.
  • South Carolina 5th District: Republican Rep. Ralph Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell by 3 percentage points in a special election last year. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who left Congress to take his post in the Trump administration, won the seat by about 20 percentage points in 2016. Trump carried the area by a similar margin.
  • Montana at-large House seat: In 2017, GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist by about 6 percentage points for the seat. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke won the state's House seat by about 16 percentage points in 2016. Trump took the state with a more than 20 percentage point advantage. Gianforte won despite assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election.
  • Georgia 6th District: Then-Rep. Tom Price won this district by more than 20 percentage points in 2016, but Trump carried the area by only 2 percentage points. GOP Rep. Karen Handel won the seat by about 4 percentage points over Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election last year.
  • Kansas 4th District: Republican Rep. Ron Estes won this seat in a 2017 special election by about 7 percentage points. Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, now CIA director and Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of State, carried it by more than 30 points in 2016. Trump won it by more than 25 points.