Get to know: Congresswoman Debbie Lesko

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, serving Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, has made the adjustment from the Arizona Legislature to Capitol Hill. Read about her new role, what legislation she is focusing on this session, and her favorite types of books.

Question: How has your transition been from the Arizona Legislature to Congress?

Answer: Well first of all I absolutely love the job. It’s such a rare opportunity and especially so few republican women have ever served. I think there’s a little over 100 republican women who have ever served in the whole history of the United States in the U.S. Congress so I feel very privileged and blessed to serve there but I have had to hit the ground running because I had to get through two elections this year, special elections and then got sworn in on May 7th and I didn’t get any orientation. It’s basically you’re sworn in, here’s your voting card, go vote. It was a Monday night and I had to vote right away and I had to hire staff at two different offices so it’s been a lot of work but we’ve gotten it done.

Q: Were you intimidated?

A: The only time I felt intimidated was actually the very first day before I was sworn in. The janitors or the maintenance staff had put a clock in my office and if anybody has been to the U.S. Capitol all the members offices have this clock with a bunch of lights on it and buzzers and all of a sudden this buzzer was going off in my office. I was sitting there. I had no staff cause I couldn’t hire any staff until I was sworn in and I didn’t know what was going on.

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: This started about 20 years ago. I was at a time in my life when I wanted to know who are these people on the ballot. I’m a republican, so I called the state republican party and asked them if they had meetings and sure enough every legislative district in the state of Arizona has monthly meetings and I started showing up. There was Jan Brewer who was I think a county supervisor at the time and I just showed up each and every month. Before you know it, I was registering voters and getting real involved. I was this huge volunteer and then I got elected as the district republican chairman, then an officer of the Maricopa County republican party, then an officer of the state republican party, and then an opening came up in the state House of Representatives. People said “you should run Debbie,” and I asked my husband what he thought. He said, “Why not? You volunteer all the time anyway.” So there I was, I ran. I won. I served six years in the Arizona House of Representatives, three years in the Arizona Senate and I was all set to run for senate president until last December when Trent Franks unexpectedly resigned. I took about a week and a half to decide if I wanted to run for U.S. Congress and I’m sure glad I did because here I am and plan to win again in November and serve another two years. 

Q: What are your priorities for Arizona in D.C.?

A: It’s really important that we continue to grow the economy in Arizona. I think republicans and President Trump have done an excellent job with the tax cuts and jobs bill. We have everyday citizens that have more money in their pockets because of the tax savings but a lot of small businesses in my congressional district are saying how they’ve been able to use the tax savings to give pay increases to their employees and bonuses to their employees and they can also reinvest in their businesses so this is a really good thing. Now I would like to bring more business to Arizona specifically in the defense and aerospace industry, I think that’s really important. We have a lot of presence in that area here in the state of Arizona and I want to grow that some more.

Q: What are you doing to protect small businesses?

A: I think it’s really important that we do protect small businesses here in Arizona and across the nation because they are the backbone of our economy. They have the most number of jobs, employ the most number of people, and help our economy. That’s why I’m a very strong believer in lower taxes and less government regulation. When I talk to small businesses the most important thing that I can do to help is get out of their life. Less government regulations, less red tape, and that’s what I believe in. 

Q: What is the Make Education Local Act?

A: My first bill that I sponsored was the Make Education Local Act and it basically says let’s get federal bureaucrats out of setting education policy in our state and let the states decide what’s best for our local schools. It also gives schools more flexibility in how to spend the federal education dollars they get. Arizona gets about 800 million dollars a year in federal education dollars and we should be able to decide how that money is spent. Right now there’s too much bureaucracy, too much red tape, too many rules, and we have to hire people just to figure out the rules and follow the guidelines. I would much rather get rid of those rules and get the money in the classroom for the teachers and the students.

Q: How many pieces of legislation have you introduced?

A: I’ve introduced three pieces of legislation so far. The first was the Make Education Local Act to improve education and give more money in the classroom. The second one, which is already passed out of the Homeland Security Committee requires the Department of Homeland Security to analyze our over 300 ports of entry into the United States to make sure that they’re secure and to make sure that they’re efficient. The Department of Homeland Security supports the bill. I have tons of co-sponsors from all over the nation and it’s already passed out of committee. And now I’m hopeful it will pass in the U.S. House in September…. my third piece of legislation says that the United States House of Representatives wants to protect social security and medicare for the seniors that are relying on it and also preserve it for future generations. 

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: I like to read James Patterson murder mysteries because they’re fun and not related to work and I get my mind off of things and I enjoy them.

Q: What has been the best piece of advice that you have received?

A: The best piece of advice that has been given to me is to be myself. Sometimes in elections you have people that give you different advice and elections are tough. Sometimes you are like, oh I really don’t want to say that against my opponent, or whatever the case may be, so I’ve had to push back a bit and say that isn’t me. And even with legislation or the way that things are written, I say that’s not really the way that I would talk and so I think that’s good advice, just be me. I mean it’s gotten me this far. 

Morgan Carr

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