Arizona Senate candidate hoping to replace Trent Franks concedes after sexting scandal

A married minister hoping to replace disgraced Arizona Senator Trent Franks ended up conceding on Tuesday after his campaign was rocked by a sexting scandal.

Steve Montenegro was hoping to replace Franks, who resigned in December after he was accused of offering a female staffer $5 million to carry his child as a surrogate.

But Debbie Lasko secured an early lead in the GOP primary on Tuesday, and Montenegro tweeted, “A sincere thank you to the voters who cast their ballot for me….And congratulations to our winner & everyone who offered themselves as candidates in #az08”

Montenegro, who had been backed by Franks, acknowledged last week that a former Senate aide had sent him a topless photo.

The two exchanged flirtatious and sexually-charged texts, although Montenegro said he “never had [an] inappropriate relationship with her or anyone else.”

Corinne Clark, a retail worker from Surprise, Arizona, said she regretted casting her ballot for Montenegro in early voting before the allegations about him surfaced.

“Whether it’s true or not is hard to know,” Clark said. “But my number one reason for voting for him was because he has Christian values, and it makes me mad that this has come up afterward.”

In the last week of the election, allegations also surfaced against Lesko concerning campaign finance irregularities.

Lesko denied that transferring $50,000 from her state campaign fund was illegal. She sent the money to an independent group that spent the cash backing her congressional bid.

Lesko managed to weather the allegations to beat 11 other GOP candidates on Tuesday by winning 36 percent of the vote over Montenegro, who had 24 percent.

Lesko will go on to face Democratic nominee Hiral Tipirneni, a political newcomer, in an April 24 special election to represent the western Phoenix suburbs.

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