Supporters of GOP candidate Debbie Lesko hold signs in Arizona ahead of a special election to fill a House seat formerly occupied by Rep. Trent Franks. Photo courtesy Debbie Lesko/Twitter
April 24 (UPI) -- After special election upsets recently in Pennsylvania and Alabama, Republican leaders have an eye on Tuesday's race in Arizona's 8th congressional district.
Vying for a House seat are Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician who is new in the political arena.
Experts believe the vote might serve as a bellwether for the midterm elections in November -- in which Democrats will try to retake control of the House and Senate.
Early results show Republicans leading with 49 percent in the traditionally conservative district northwest of Phoenix. Democrats are polling with 28 percent and independents with 23 percent.
Despite the lead, Lesko is still cautious, telling supporters last weekend, "we are in the fight of our lives."
"This isn't like the normal, everyday elections that happen in November, where Trent Franks had won by a whole bunch because nobody really challenged him," Lesko said. "The entire nation is looking at Arizona, because it's the only game in town right now."
Franks, a Republican who previously held the seat, announced his resignation in December after the House Committee on Ethics opened an investigation into misconduct allegations.
Franks won the seat in 2016 with more than 68 percent of the vote -- a district President Donald Trump won by 21 points. A Democrat has not been elected there since 1980.
Tipirneni has promised that if she's elected to serve out the remaining few months of Franks' term, she will run to keep it in November.
"There should be no foregone conclusion," Tipirneni said. "Nobody should be getting into office to represent hundreds of thousands of people by default. And that is what has been happening in this district for much too long."
Democrats need to win several races to take control of the House and Senate in November, but recent races indicate they might have hope. Democrat Doug Jones upset Republican Roy Moore in December to fill an Alabama seat -- and Democrat Conor Lamb was elected in a typically GOP district of Pennsylvania last month.