CD special election: Lesko, Montenegro have raised most money for Republican primary

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Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The campaign to replace disgraced Congressman Trent Franks is until full swing. The primary for the CD 8 special election is just a few days away, but early voting opened on Jan. 31.

In terms of money, the Republican primary is down to two candidates – former state lawmaker Debbie Lesko and Steve Montenegro. They lead the 12-candidate field in the spending race.

New finance reports show Montenegro has raised more than $232,000 over the past month. Lesko comes in second with about $197,000.

The race, however, is far from over.

[MORE: Special election for Arizona's Congressional District 8]

County election officials say 70 percent of the early ballot have not been returned. That’s an indication that many voters have yet to make up their minds.

“Money talks in politics so those candidates know how to raise money and they have big political friends with money,” Richard Mack, a former two-term sheriff in Graham County, said on Politics Unplugged. “I’m not a career politician and I'm not a mainstream politician; I'm a former Arizona sheriff.”

Trailing far behind the top-money-raiser, Mack has raised about $40,000 to wage his campaign. Despite that, he says he’s raising more cash and will have enough to fund a last-minute blitz before the Feb. 27 primary.

“Let’s go with the person who's most qualified, not the person who raises the most money,” he said.

The Democratic primary is much smaller – just two candidates. Hiral Tipirneni raised over $254,000. Brianna Westbook trailed with $34,000.

The winners of each primary will face off in a general election on April 24.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

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