Arizona GOP winner to join Freedom Caucus

Arizona GOP winner to join Freedom Caucus
© Screenshot/Arizona's NBC 12 News

Rep.-elect Debbie Lesko (R), who narrowly won a special election in Arizona Tuesday night, is expected to join the House Freedom Caucus after she is sworn in, the conservative group’s leader, Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Both Meadows and former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report MORE (R-Ohio) endorsed Lesko in her GOP primary earlier this year. And the Freedom Fund, the super PAC aligned with the Freedom Caucus, contributed to her campaign during the primary.

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“We felt she was the best candidate in the 8th District of Arizona. We look forward to having her join our ranks as a strong contributing member of the Freedom Caucus when she gets sworn in as a new member of Congress,” Meadows said in a Wednesday morning phone interview.

“We have every expectation an invitation to join the caucus will be made and that she will gladly accept,” he added.

To join the roughly 30-member Freedom Caucus, a GOP lawmaker needs to be invited by the group; that only happens after a formal vote by the members.

The Freedom Caucus has been a frequent thorn in GOP leadership’s side. It’s credited with pressuring then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Veterans are left out of medical marijuana protections MORE (R-Ohio) to resign in the middle of his term in the fall of 2015 and has repeatedly clashed with retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record MORE (R-Wis.).

Lesko also owes her victory, in part, to GOP leadership. Ryan helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for her in the closing weeks of the campaign. And Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Elon Musk donated nearly K to Republican PAC, filings show Eric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' MORE (R-Calif.) flew to Phoenix to campaign with Lesko last week.

Lesko, a former state legislator, defeated Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in a closer-than-expected special election to replace former Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksJordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties MORE (R-Ariz.) in a deep-red district that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE won in 2016 by a 21-point margin.

Franks, a Freedom Caucus member and staunch conservative, resigned in disgrace in December after it was revealed he had offered to pay $5 million to a female staffer in his office if she would carry his child.