CD 8 special election: Get to know Debbie Lesko

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
CD 8 candidate Debbie Lesko introduced our Kris Pickel to one of the two pet chickens that call her Peoria backyard home. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) CD 8 candidate Debbie Lesko introduced our Kris Pickel to one of the two pet chickens that call her Peoria backyard home. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
'They are calming,' Lesko said of her chickens. 'It seems kind of quirky but they all have different personalities.' 'They are calming,' Lesko said of her chickens. 'It seems kind of quirky but they all have different personalities.'
PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

It was a challenge when I asked Debbie Lesko what she does in her downtime. The challenge is she doesn't really have any. The self-proclaimed workaholic is always on the move.

Lesko's main escape is spending time in her backyard in the Peoria neighborhood she adores.  

[VIDEO: CD 8 candidate Debbie Lesko has conservative voting record]

It's an unusually large yard with a swimming pool. Citrus and fig trees surround a large grassy area.

All that space comes in handy, both for quality family time and also for Lesko's pet chickens.

"They are calming," she said. "It seems kind of quirky but they all have different personalities."

Lesko had 18 chickens until recently when a coyote got into the yard. She currently has just two -- Stacy and Lacey. Lesko hasn't replaced the others, knowing that if she wins the District 8 congressional seat, she won't be taking the chickens to Washington.

Lesko's political history began about 20 years ago. The first 10 years was volunteering, followed by nine years in office, most recently serving in the state Senate.

Of the 12 Republican candidates in the Republican primary, Lesko is the only woman.

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

The point of sitting down for this interview is getting to know something about the person behind the politician.

A violent past does not define Lesko, but it did help shape who she is now. Twenty-five years ago, she left an abusive ex-husband. 

"He would threaten to kill me," Lesko said. "He was threatening to take our daughter."

Lesko admits she didn't understand how any woman could stay in an abusive relationship -- until it happened to her.  

She found herself trapped. Her husband at the time cut her off from her family and took control of their money so she had to rely on him financially. He threatened to take their daughter, saying Lesko would never see her again.

After years of abuse, Lesko found the strength to take her daughter and escape.

As a politician, she's heard from women from all walks of life caught in abuse, from young women to senior citizens in Sun City. 

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

"I want people to understand this can happen to anyone," she said.

One of her priorities is making time to serve on an advisory council for a domestic violence shelter. She encourages women by sharing her personal experiences.

"I  tell them, 'Get out. Stay out. It's not worth it.  You have so much opportunity in your life; we can help you,'" Lesko explained.
  
She now describes her life as blessed -- three grown children, two grandsons and happily married. 

Politics and life have made Lesko stronger, giving her experience she says she's ready to take to Washington. 

"I've just learned through the years that you need to work with everyone because you're not going to agree on every issue," she said. "You have to keep the communication lines open and not take it so personally."

[RELATED: Similar GOP candidates vie for Arizona Rep. Franks' seat]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]


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