In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won Arizona’s 8th district by almost 21 points. The district is so red that the Democratic Party didn’t even field a candidate to run for Congress against Republican incumbent Trent Franks in 2012, 2014, or 2016. But when Franks resigned in disgrace after a sex scandal, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni stepped up to run as the Democratic candidate in the special election to replace him.
This past Tuesday, Tipirneni came within five points of defeating her Republican opponent, Debbie Lesko — a huge 16 point swing from only a year and a half ago! I recently traveled to the district to endorse “Dr. Hiral”- a forceful, eloquent candidate running a terrific campaign. Blissfully, she’s running again in November, when there will also be a big Senate race on the ballot, which may be even better for her than a House special election with low general awareness. I think she can win in November and send shock waves through the GOP in this district they have previously owned!
Democratic candidates in hundreds of congressional districts around the country can send similar shock waves if they follow Tipirneni’s lead. Not only did she run against Republican plans to take health care away from millions of people, she presented voters with a compelling alternative vision: Expanding Social Security and Medicare, while bringing down drug prices by using the power of government to take on big pharma’s greed.
These policies are incredibly popular with voters across the ideological spectrum. Two-thirds of voters are more likely to back candidates who support expanding and increasing Social Security benefits, vs. only 18 percent who are less likely. Similarly, 64 percent of voters are more likely to back candidates who support expanding Medicare, vs. only 22 percent who are less likely. An astounding 84 percent of voters are more likely to back candidates who support taking federal action to lower prescription drug prices, vs. only 11 percent who are less likely.
Exit polling shows that 58 percent of voters in Tuesday’s special election said that health care was either “the most important issue” or “a very important issue” in determining their vote. In this ruby red district, the poll showed that more voters felt that Tipirneni shared their views on the issue of health care than her Republican opponent.
This holds true for other districts, as well. A survey of voters in the recent PA-18 special election showed that a staggering 43 percent of voters said the “main reason” they voted for Conor Lamb was that “He will protect Social Security & Medicare.” The second-place “reason,” out of seven offered, garnered only 18 percent. And Lamb actually won a difficult district, nearly as red as AZ-08.
There are 146 (!) congressional districts that are more favorable for Democrats than Arizona’s 8th, and it won’t be possible for even the deep pocketed GOP to spend a massive amount of cash in all of them, like they did in AZ-08.
A blue wave is coming this November, but only if Democratic candidates follow the lead of Tipirneni, Lamb, and the American people. Expanding Social Security, expanding Medicare, and taking on big pharma is the formula for victory.