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New poll shows Democrat gaining on Republican in Arizona special election

The special election for an Arizona House seat vacated by Rep. Trent Franks is drawing attention as another opportunity for Democrats to pick up a Republican seat, with a new poll showing the race in a statistical tie.

A poll from Emerson College shows Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni leading Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko by a single percentage point, 46 - 45, in Arizona's 8th Congressional District. The close results fall within the poll's margin for error. If accurate, this is yet another instance of a Democratic candidate closing the gap in a congressional district that President Donald Trump won by over 20 points in 2016.

However, previous polling shows Lesko leading Tipirneni by double digits, making this new poll an outlier. This fact is not dissuading media reports from mentioning Democrat Conor Lamb's upset victory in a Republican-favored district in Pennsylvania last month to speculate that the Democrats may pick up yet another seat in a special election, a prelude to a blue wave.

In special elections, the winner is often determined by which candidate can motivate the party base to get out to vote. In this particular race, both Republicans and Democrats have motivating issues.

The Emerson poll found that the issues most important to voters were education and immigration, each polling at 33 percent. Voters who think education is most important broke for Tipirneni, while voters who think immigration is most important are supporting Lesko. Both issues are taking center stage in Arizona, a border state where teachers are on the verge of organizing a walkout following the recent trend of teacher protests in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

There is an enthusiasm gap, with 52 percent of Tipirneni voters saying they are "very excited" to vote, while only 43 percent of Lesko voters say the same.

The special election will be held on April 24.

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