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Debbie Lesko, Hiral Tipirneni Square Off In Combative Debate

By Stina Sieg
Published: Friday, October 19, 2018 - 7:53pm
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 9:45am

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Debbie Lesko and Hiral Tipirneni sit behind a desk with moderators at Arizona PBS
Stina Sieg/KJZZ
Republican Debbie Lesko (left) and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni (right) face off in a debate in 2018 with Ted Simons as moderator.

Republican Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni squared off Friday afternoon in a frequently combative debate. They’re vying for the west Valley's 8th Congressional District, vacated after Trent Franks resigned in scandal.

The candidates often presented themselves as opposites. Tipirneni wants a public option available for medical coverage, while Lesko wants less government in healthcare. Lesko lauded last year’s GOP-led tax cuts. Tipirneni said they help the rich and worsen the federal deficit. President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall was also a fiery topic.

Lesko said stopping people from entering the country illegally will help defray the billions of dollars the wall is expected to cost.

“Healthcare for illegals costs a lot of money. Education for illegals costs a lot of money,” she said. “If we secure the border, it’s going to save money.”

Tipirneni responded that she wants border security, as well, but spoke of different ways to go about it than building a new physical barrier.

“There are areas to reinforce,” she said. “We also need more boots on the ground, more equipment. I’ve been to the border. This is what they tell us.”

Tipirneni lost to Lesko in a special election in April. But the margin was close — less than five points in a heavily Republican district.