Debbie Lesko
Rep. Debbie Lesko official portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th district
Assumed office
May 7, 2018
Preceded byTrent Franks
President pro tempore of the Arizona Senate
In office
January 9, 2017 – January 8, 2018
Preceded bySylvia Allen
Succeeded byJohn Kavanagh
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 12, 2015 – January 8, 2018
Preceded byRick Murphy
Succeeded byRick Gray
Member of the
Arizona House of Representatives
In office
January 9, 2009 – January 12, 2015
Preceded byBob Stump
Succeeded byTony Rivero
Constituency9th district (2009–2013)
21st district (2013–2015)
Personal details
Debra Kay Lorenz

(1958-11-14) November 14, 1958 (age 63)
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Jeffrey Herald (Ignas)
(m. 1985; div. 1993)

Joe Lesko
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison (BA)
WebsiteHouse website

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 since 2018. The district is 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.[1] Lesko also served as a member of Arizona House of Representatives from 2009 until 2015. She became the Representative for Arizona's 8th congressional district after winning a 2018 special election.[2]

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.[3] In 1985, she married Jeffrey Allen Ignas.

Legal issues

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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 for fraud. After serving only four years of the sentence, he was released from prison in 1992. In October 1992, he and Lesko filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. The couple was also sued twice in 1993: for failure to pay a $10,000 rental equipment bill and for an additional unpaid $11,000 bill. They filed for bankruptcy again that year. 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. The next year, the second bankruptcy protection case was closed.[4] Ignas, now known as Jeffrey Allen Herald, was again incarcerated at the Arizona Department of Corrections, and released in June 2022. He is on supervised probation. Lesko later married Joe Lesko.[3] She has used other names, including Debbie Harris, Debra Ignas, Debra Schultz, Debra Howard and Debra Kay Lorenz. Her name changes were associated with Ignas, who also went by different names.[4][5]

Early career

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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. Her contributions to the newspaper included opinion pieces about illegal immigration and domestic violence.[4]

U.S. House of Representatives


2018 special election

Main article: 2018 Arizona's 8th congressional district special election

On December 20, 2017, Lesko announced she would run in the special election to replace Representative Trent Franks, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Her state senate district included the bulk of the congressional district. She also announced that her resignation from the Arizona Senate.[6] Although Arizona's resign-to-run laws 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 on January 8, 2018.[7]

Lesko won the Republican nomination and faced the Democratic nominee, physician Hiral Tipirneni, in the general election on April 24.[8] She was endorsed by President Donald Trump, who said that Lesko was a "conservative Republican".[9]

She won the election on April 24, with 52.6% of the vote to Tipirneni's 47.4.[10] The win was by a narrower margin than expected,[11] with observers suggesting that it was indicative of a coming Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm elections.[12][13] 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% of the vote[14] (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."[15]


Main article: 2018 United States House of Representatives elections in Arizona § District 8

Lesko defeated Tipirneni again for a full two-year term by a slightly wider margin, taking 55.5% to Tipirneni's 44.5%.[16] It was still the closest general election in the district in 42 years, and the closest a Democrat had come to winning a full term in the district since Stump switched parties in 1982.

In January 2018, Lesko's campaign committee, Re-elect Debbie Lesko for Senate, gave $50,000 to the 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.[17] The PAC raised almost no other cash and used the money to support Lesko with yard signs, while her congressional campaign spent heavily on television 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.[17]

The PAC maneuver also prompted criticism from Lesko's other opponent in the Republican primary, Steve Montenegro.[17] In March 2018, the Campaign Legal Center filed a federal campaign finance law violation complaint against Lesko, 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.[18]


Main article: 2020 United States House of Representatives elections in Arizona § District 8

In the 2020 election, Lesko defeated Democratic nominee Michael Muscato with 60% of the vote.[19]


Main article: 2022 United States House of Representatives elections in Arizona § District 8

Lesko is running for reelection in 2022. [20]


During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesko appeared at a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a time when coronavirus cases were surging across the nation.[21] When asked about the public health risk the rally posed, she responded, "I think the Trump administration and the campaign is doing all it can by doing temperature checks and handing out masks."[21] She defended the rally organizers' decision not to require face masks. During the time, she posted pictures of herself among people; in some pictures she wore a mask, in others she did not.[21]

As of October 2021, Lesko had voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 13.9% of the time.[22]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions


Lesko opposes abortion.[26] She has proposed legislation to give employers religious exemptions from providing contraceptives in health insurance plans.[27][28][29] She has proposed legislation that would allow health officials to conduct warrantless and unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, which critics said undermined the privacy of the clinics' patients.[30] She supported the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade.[31]

Donald Trump

Lesko has been described as a loyal ally of former President Donald Trump.[21] In December 2019, she voted against impeaching him.[32] She said there is "no proof, none, that the president has committed an impeachable offense."[33] In defending Trump, she claimed that he had not asked President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, his opponent in the 2020 presidential election.[34]

In December 2020, Lesko was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to sign 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 Biden defeated Trump.[35] 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 an election held by another state.[36][37][38] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion".[39][40]

Lesko was one of the 139 Republican representatives to vote to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Congress at the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count.[41]

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.[42] 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."[42]

In 2017, Lesko championed legislation that would allow payday lenders to provide loans at annual interest rates as high as 164%.[43] In 2016, she opposed efforts to increase the minimum wage in Arizona to $10 by 2017 and $12 by 2020.[44]


Lesko favors empowering private schools and charter schools.[45]

Environment and energy

Asked about climate change, Lesko said "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."[46]

In 2016, Lesko crafted a measure that would give Arizona utilities 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.[47] She crafted the measure with the utilities' assistance.[47]

Gun policy

Lesko opposes changes to existing gun laws, saying "I think there's enough laws. The laws need to be enforced."[42] She has received an "A" rating from the NRA.[48]

Health care

Lesko opposes universal health care and favors repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[42] She opposed Arizona's expansion of Medicaid coverage and sued former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer after she expanded the program.[49]

Lesko has said that COVID-19 vaccine distribution should prioritize American citizens over those who are in the country illegally.[50]

In 2017, Lesko sponsored and passed a bill in the Arizona State Senate that created a process for challenging a surprise medical bill[51] when care is received from an out-of-network doctor at an in-network facility. Lesko said, "I knew this was an ongoing problem. I had seen reports that the media had done of different patients through no fault of their own were getting these surprise medical bills."[52]


Lesko made the construction of a border wall on the Mexico border the centerpiece of her 2018 campaign, and pledged to back the Trump administration's hardline positions on border security and immigration reform.[53][54][45]

LGBT rights

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.[55][better source needed]

Foreign policy

Lesko was among 60 Republicans voting against condemning Trump's withdrawal from Syria.[56]

Lesko was among 19 House Republicans to vote against the final passage of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.[57]

Electoral history

Debbie Lesko at a campaign event in Peoria, Arizona.
Debbie Lesko at a campaign event in Peoria, Arizona.
Republican special primary results, Arizona 2018[66]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Debbie Lesko 27,047 35.37%
Republican Phil Lovas 18,652 24.39%
Republican Steve Montenegro 18,106 23.68%
Republican Bob Stump 4,032 5.27%
Republican Clair Van Steenwyk 1,787 2.34%
Republican Christopher Sylvester 1,490 1.95%
Republican David Lien 1,341 1.75%
Republican Richard Mack 1,191 1.56%
Republican Mark Yates 871 1.14%
Republican Chad Allen 824 1.08%
Republican Brenden Dilley 823 1.08%
Republican Stephen Dolgos 377 0.49%
Write-in 8 0.01%
Total votes 76,459 100%
Arizona's 8th congressional district special election, 2018[65]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Debbie Lesko 96,012 52.4% -15.97
Democratic Hiral Tipirneni 87,331 47.6% +47.6
Total votes 183,343 100.00
Plurality 8,682 5.2%
Republican hold Swing -16.0%
Republican primary results, Arizona 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Debbie Lesko (incumbent) 73,776 77.17%
Republican Sandra E. Dowling 21,825 22.83%
Total votes 95,601 100%
Arizona's 8th congressional district, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Debbie Lesko (incumbent) 168,835 55.46%
Democratic Hiral Tipirneni 135,569 44.53%
Write-in 13 <0.01%
Total votes 304,417 100%
Republican hold
Arizona's 8th congressional district, 2020[67]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Debbie Lesko (incumbent) 251,633 59.6
Democratic Michael Muscato 170,816 40.4
Write-in 18 0.0
Total votes 422,467 100.0
Republican hold

See also


  1. ^ "Debbie Lesko". Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona State Legislature. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  2. ^ Hansen, Ronald J.; Wingett-Sanchez, Yvonne; Nowicki, Dan (December 12, 2017). "Trent Franks stepping down from Congress amid complaints from 2 former female staffers". The Arizona Republic.
  3. ^ a b Giroux, Greg. "Ready for Congress: Meet Rep.-Elect Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz".
  4. ^ a b c Hansen, Ronald J. (October 23, 2020). "Rep. Debbie Lesko's past includes debt, criminal charge she links to 'con-man' ex-husband". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  5. ^ "Rep. Lesko faced legal, money problems during 1st marriage". AP News. October 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Hansen, Ronald J. (December 20, 2017). "Debbie Lesko is officially running for Congress for Trent Franks' seat". The Arizona Republic.
  7. ^ "Debbie Lesko resigns from Arizona Senate to focus on Congress run". KTAR-FM. January 8, 2018.
  8. ^ Matthew Bloch & Jasmine C. Lee, Arizona Special Primary Election Results: Eighth House District (February 28, 2018).
  9. ^ Merica, Dan. "Democrats aren't expecting an Arizona miracle, but their eyes are on November". CNN. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Republican wins US House race in Arizona GOP stronghold – Your Valley". Your Valley. April 25, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  12. ^ Rakich, Nathaniel (April 23, 2018). "Watch The Arizona 8th Special Election Like A Pro". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Enten, Harry (April 25, 2018). "Why the win for Republicans in Arizona 8 is still good for Democrats". CNN. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  14. ^ "Our Campaigns - AZ District 3 Race - Nov 02, 1976". Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ Arizona 2018 House results from CNN
  17. ^ a b c Hansen, Ronald J. (February 21, 2018). "Debbie Lesko accused of moving $50K from campaign to a PAC that backs ... Lesko". Arizona Republic.
  18. ^ "GOP primary winner, Debbie Lesko, faces 2nd federal election law complaint". Associated Press. March 2, 2018.
  19. ^ "Arizona Election Results: Eighth Congressional District". The New York Times. November 3, 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  20. ^ "FEC Form 2 for Report FEC-1472850". Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  21. ^ a b c d Hansen, Robert J.; Krejci, Cleo (June 22, 2020). "In Tulsa for Trump's rally, Rep. Debbie Lesko sometimes wore a mask, sometimes didn't". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  22. ^ Wiederkehr, Anna; Bycoffe, Aaron (October 22, 2021). "Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden?". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  23. ^ "Committees & Caucuses | U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko". Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  24. ^ Sanchez, Yvonne Wingett; Hansen, Ronald J. (July 16, 2018). "McCain and Flake ripped Trump's Putin performance, but other Ariz. reps mostly silent". Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  25. ^ "Membership". Republican Study Committee. December 6, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  26. ^ Golshan, Tara (April 16, 2018). "Republicans aren't taking chances in the Arizona special election to replace Trent Franks". Vox.
  27. ^ "Contraception exemption bill may be finished". Arizona Daily Star. Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services. April 6, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  28. ^ Price, Michelle L. (March 24, 2012). "Glendale lawmaker defends her birth-control bill". The Arizona Daily Star. The Associated Press. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  29. ^ "Birth-control-exclusion bill goes to Arizona Senate". The Arizona Daily Star. Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services. March 13, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  30. ^ "House approves unannounced, warrantless abortion clinic inspections". Arizona Daily Star. Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services. February 28, 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  31. ^ Lesko, Debbie (June 24, 2022). "My statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson". Twitter. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  32. ^ Swenson, Ali (December 18, 2019). "How Each Arizona Representative Voted on President Donald Trump's Impeachment". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  33. ^ Harris, Kara (December 19, 2019). "Arizona lawmakers split, as House takes historic vote to impeach Trump". Tucson Sentinel. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  34. ^ Blake, Aaron (December 18, 2019). "The GOP's closing impeachment argument: Denying basic facts". The Washington Post.
  35. ^ Blood, Michael R.; Riccardi, Nicholas (December 5, 2020). "Biden officially secures enough electors to become president". AP News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  36. ^ Liptak, Adam (December 11, 2020). "Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  37. ^ "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.
  38. ^ Diaz, Daniella (December 10, 2020). "Brief from 126 Republicans supporting Texas lawsuit in Supreme Court". CNN. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  39. ^ Smith, David (December 12, 2020). "Supreme court rejects Trump-backed Texas lawsuit aiming to overturn election results". The Guardian. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
  40. ^ "Pelosi Statement on Supreme Court Rejecting GOP Election Sabotage Lawsuit" (Press release). Speaker Nancy Pelosi. December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
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  42. ^ a b c d Hansen, Ronald J. (April 12, 2018). "Lesko, Tipirneni contrast views on health, taxes and guns in final CD8 joint appearance". The Arizona Republic.
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  44. ^ "Backers of higher Arizona minimum wage use extra cash to target candidates". The Arizona Daily Star. Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services. October 30, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
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  48. ^ "Your Freedom is Under Attack! Vote On or Before November 6th!".
  49. ^ "Repeal Of Health Law Could Force Tough Decisions For Arizona Republicans". NPR. March 22, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
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  52. ^ Enriquez, Liana; Harper, Gary (February 25, 2019). "Update: New law may help 'ease the pain' of surprise medical bills". AZFamily.
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  56. ^ "H.J.Res. 77: Opposing the decision to end certain United States … -- House Vote #560 -- Oct 16, 2019".
  57. ^ "S. 1605: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 -- House Vote #405 -- Dec 7, 2021".
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Arizona House of Representatives Preceded byBob Stump Member of the Arizona House of Representativesfrom the 9th district 2009–2013 Served alongside: Rick Murphy, Rick Gray Succeeded byVictoria Steele Preceded byJ. D. Mesnard Member of the Arizona House of Representativesfrom the 21st district 2013–2015 Served alongside: Rick Gray Succeeded byTony Rivero Arizona Senate Preceded byRick Murphy Member of the Arizona Senatefrom the 21st district 2015–2018 Succeeded byRick Gray Preceded bySylvia Allen President pro tempore of the Arizona Senate 2017–2018 Succeeded byJohn Kavanagh U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byTrent Franks Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona's 8th congressional district 2018–present Incumbent U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byConor Lamb United States representatives by seniority 283rd Succeeded byMichael Cloud