Indian American Dr. Hiral Tipirneni is poised to win the special Democratic primary election for the 8th Congressional District of Arizona, which is being held today.
The Mumbai-born emergency-room physician is pitted against Brianna Westbrook, a transgender woman and social activist. The winner will take on the winner of the crowded Republican primary in the April 24th special election.
The special election is being held to find a replacement for Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned following sexual misconduct allegation. He represented the 8th district for 14 years before resigning on December 8, 2017.
Tipirneni, who has the endorsement of former Congresswoman Rep. Gabby Giffords, has raised $300,000 for her bid.
While the Democratic primary is essentially a two-candidate race, on the Republican side there are at least a dozen candidates, including the Franks-backed Steve Montenegro, who is embroiled in a controversy of his own.
The former state senator, a Tea Party favorite, was accused of a sexting relationship with a state Senate staffer.
Debbie Lesko, another strong GOP candidate, was also tainted by a campaign finance controversy.
Even if Tipirneni wins the Democratic primary, she will be in a tough race in the next month’s general election. The 8th district is a heavily Republican district, where the Democratic presidential nominees won only 37 percent votes in the last two elections.
However, if Tipirneni wins today’s primary, she will be the strongest nominee the Democrats have fielded in years. Franks did not have a Democratic challenger in the last two election cycles.
READ: Indian American Dr. Hiral Tipirneni’s chances improve as Rep. Trent Franks announces resignation (December 8, 2017)
Earlier this month, she won the endorsement of the influential Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in the state.
“Tipirneni, in her work as a physician, has firsthand insights into the challenges and failings of the health-care system,” the editorial board of the newspaper wrote. “She calls health-care reform “a moral imperative for me” and champions legislation that expands access, including allowing individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 to buy into Medicare.”
The state’s newspaper of record added: “Although her stances reflect a Democratic agenda, Tipirneni touts a science-led, data-based approach to policymaking, which could help take the passion out of vitriolic debates over how to deal with entitlement reform or environmental programs. Or how to deal with gun violence, which she views as a public-health issue.”
Tipirneni also has the backing of the AAPI Victory Fund, a Democratic party “Super PAC” that mobilizes voters from Asian American and Pacific Islanders communities.
She officially announced her candidacy on July 19, months before the staunch conservative Franks was practically pushed out of Congress by the House leadership following revelations that he had asked two female congressional staffers to bear his children as surrogate mothers.
The Indian American said she is running because she wanted to take on special interests in Washington. “I believe in solving problems and improving lives, which is all about people, not partisanship,” Tipirneni said while announcing her candidacy. “That’s what I did in the emergency room, and I’m running for Congress to do the same.”
Speaking to The American Bazaar last year, AAPI Victory Fund Founder and Chairman Shekar Narasimhan described Tipirneni as a “competent” and a “highly-qualified” candidate who offers a great opportunity for the Democrats to capture a historically GOP district.
“[She’s] bringing a fresh energy to a congressional district that has been represented for 18 years by an ideologue,” Narasimhan said. “Her medical experience and commitment to service is exemplary and she is deserving of our support.”
Tipirneni came to the United States from India with her family at the age of three. Her father was a structural engineering in Ohio and her mother a social worker.
She reportedly met her husband, Dr. Kishore Tipirneni, during her first year of medical school at a cadaver lab.