House

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 Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Both Meadows and former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (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 Boehner (R-Ohio) to resign in the middle of his term in the fall of 2015 and has repeatedly clashed with retiring Speaker Paul Ryan (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 McCarthy (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 Franks (R-Ariz.) in a deep-red district that President Trump 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.

Tags Boehner Donald Trump House Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan John Boehner Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Paul Ryan Trent Franks
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