CD8 Field Grows: Kern, Toma, Franks Enter Increasingly Competitive GOP Primary

Kern Toma
Arizona State Sen. Anthony Kern | Arizona State Speaker of the House Ben Toma

The Republican primary to replace Congresswoman Debbie Lesko gained three new entrants this week as both State Senator Anthony Kern and House Speaker Ben Toma, as well as former Congressman Trent Franks jumped into the race.

Kern was the first to announce, with a press release that read in part, “I have been privileged to serve the people of Arizona throughout my career in public service as a law enforcement officer, Representative, and Senator. It is now my honor to continue fighting for our people as their representative in Congress.” Kern later followed his announcement with an endorsement from Mesa State Representative Barbara Parker, who referred to Kern as “the only proven conservative in this race.”

Franks’ announcement came as somewhat of a surprise since it was his resignation from Congress that triggered the special election Debbie Lesko won in 2018. Franks will be seeking his old seat in part because he believes “…the 2024 election is vital to the survival of a free, prosperous, and strong America in the world. I have never believed these things more than I do now. Thus, I have chosen to run for Congress again with the very deepest prayer in my heart being, God’s Will Be Done.”

For his part, Toma’s announcement also focused on his conservative record, which included leading the passage of the largest tax cut in Arizona history, and passing the nation’s first universal education savings account program. Toma’s ESA program has now been replicated in a number of other states.

“The citizens of District 8 want a representative that will work for them, our state, our country. When told it was ‘impossible’ to get a flat income tax and universal school choice signed into law, I went to work and got it done. Just as I have led the Republican caucus in the Arizona State House, I will work tirelessly to unify our party in Congress and advance a conservative agenda to change the direction of our country.”

“These all look like serious candidates, although in different ways,” said one Arizona consultant, “because with Kern you have a very strong MAGA vibe and a candidate whose devotion to Donald Trump is second to none. Trent Franks certainly has some residual name ID with the voters and a lot of voters who think he was treated unfairly. Toma is as conservative as any candidate in the field, but his style is steadier and where other candidates will likely be throwing bombs, Toma will be talking about actual results he has achieved. It will be an interesting dynamic to see how the voters react to these different styles.”

Already announced for the race are Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters. More candidates are expected to join the field in the weeks to come.

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