Arizona Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko demonstrated her approval of a crass smear against Democrats in her state.
State Sen. Debbie Lesko is already facing an unexpected fight in the special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District. Yet she had nothing but applause after a Republican congressman smeared Democrats in their state as a "parasite class."
Republicans have won landslide victories in the district for 14 years. And Trump won by a 21-point margin there in 2016. Yet this year, the race is newly competitive, and Lesko is struggling to adapt.
And at a campaign event with Arizona Rep. David Schweikert, Lesko and her supporters showed their inability to even humanize their opponents.
Schweikert claimed that Democrats are not backing their candidate, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, for the good of the district. Rather, he insisted it was simply "to build lists, raise money, radicalize [their] base."
"It's not actually about this community, this district," he said. "They basically are the parasite class using our community for their radical politics. We need to crush them."
And Lesko reacted to this incendiary rhetoric by smiling and clapping.
US. Rep. Schweikert on Saturday on Democrats' efforts in #AZ08 (place that hasn't been competitive in 14 years): "It’s also used to build lists, raise money, radicalize your base….basically the parasite class using our community for their radical politics. We need to crush them” pic.twitter.com/FkU4m3tXtC
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) April 23, 2018
Claiming that support for an opponent comes from outside special interests and national politicians isn't a new gambit in politics. Republicans miss no chance to say any Democratic candidate will do Nancy Pelosi's bidding, for example. And they're even trying to eke out wins in the upcoming midterms by attacking Hillary Clinton.
But calling the other party "parasites" to be "crushed" is dangerously inflammatory. And it displays patent hypocrisy, given how much national money Republicans have sunk into the race to prop up Lesko.
In recent campaigns, Republicans have seemed to lose their filter as previously safe races have come down to the wire. On the day of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District election, Republican Rick Saccone said supporters of Democratic Marine vet Conor Lamb "have a hatred for our country" and "have a hatred for God" in an unhinged tirade.
Hours later, the polls closed, and Saccone lost the election.
There are warning signs for the GOP in the race in Arizona as well. Most noteworthy, two recent polls put Lesko and Tipirneni neck and neck.
Applauding a hateful smear against an entire party hardly seems like a winning strategy for Lesko, now that she's facing a far more competitive race than expected.