Tense Forum in Sun City West as Maricopa County Supervisor District 4 Candidates Branch and Lesko Vie for Voters’ Support

Bob Branch Debbie Lesko

In Maricopa County, the race for supervisor in District 4 is heating up between two Republican contenders: Dr. Robert Branch and U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08). There is a Democratic candidate, but given the district’s strong Republican history, political watchers say they expect that Republicans will prevail to join the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS). The pair recently clashed at a lively forum hosted by the Sun City West Republican Club on Saturday.

The Maricopa County BOS, where the winner will serve, plays a crucial role in managing the county. The board’s responsibilities include setting policies, approving budgets, and ensuring fiscal responsibility through careful spending oversight. Additionally, the BOS is responsible for passing resolutions and ordinances that regulate the county’s operations.

Businessman versus Legislator

During the weekend forum at Sun City West, both Branch and Lesko presented their qualifications and the campaign priorities. Lesko highlighted her role in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and discussed her legislative efforts during his administration.

In contrast, Branch said that authoring legislation was not enough. He criticized Congress for its lack of effectiveness and for breaking promises. Branch argued that if the Republican majority had fully supported Trump, they could have avoided losing power in the midterm elections and prevented his impeachment. Branch specifically pointed out failures such as not defunding Obamacare and the IRS.

He emphasized that these same legislators are now advocating to “stick with Trump.”  Lesko disputed what she said was an inaccurate statement, emphasizing that the Republicans did indeed support Trump on the border wall issue.

During the debate, Lesko spoke about her dedication to the district, highlighting her lengthy legislative service. In contrast, Branch emphasized his business background, arguing that the skills needed for the Board of Supervisors differ significantly from those of a legislator. He showcased his experience generating revenue while serving on the board at the parks and claimed to have worked effectively with nearly every department, positioning himself as a proven leader.

Branch critiqued the traditional role of a legislator, which he described as focused primarily on fundraising, voting along party lines, and seeking reelection. He suggested that these duties do not align well with the responsibilities of a Board of Supervisors member.

The event escalated in tension when some audience members booed as Branch played a recording of outgoing Supervisor Hickman, who claimed that Lesko had inquired about the functions of the Board of Supervisors (BOS) just before filing her candidacy papers. The atmosphere grew even more charged when a crowd member questioned Lesko about missing a vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This act allows U.S. spy agencies to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ communications under certain circumstances.

Lesko explained that she had the flu at the time of the vote and couldn’t fly without risking the health of others. Branch countered, comparing her absence unfavorably to Dianne Feinstein, who he claimed had left her “death bed” to vote, emphasizing that Lesko’s presence could have broken a tie and prevented a policy that he claimed allowed Americans to be spied on. Lesko defended her decision, stating it was unreasonable to expect her to travel with a fever and potentially spread illness.

Branch provided The Arizona Sun Times with a press release regarding the FISA issue.

Branch told The Sun Times, “My candidacy for County Supervisor is backed by seven terms of service in county government, coupled with my doctorate degree in leadership, uniquely qualifying me with a business leadership skill set essential for this role.

He added, “While others withdrew when Ms. Lesko, a lifelong legislator, entered the race, I stayed because I have a proven track record of bringing the vision, collaboration, and inspiration needed for effective county leadership. The legislative skill set Ms. Lesko brings, like fundraising and party allegiance, doesn’t equate to the County Board of Supervisors. I am the Right Leader, Right Now, for County Supervisor.”

Robert Branch 

Branch (pictured above, left) has a background in education and technology. He has spent over two decades teaching at the postsecondary level, including roles such as dean of education and dean of technology. He’s known for his work in online education and has designed numerous academic programs. Additionally, Branch has experience in the tech industry, particularly in cryptography and the semiconductor industry, after serving in the United States Air Force.

Politically, he labels himself as a “Christian Conservative College Professor” and has been a popular figure in local and national political discussions. He ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona in 2018 as the “Trump candidate,” narrowly losing in the primary. Currently, he also serves as the commissioner of Park and Recreation for Maricopa County, a role in which he advises the County Board of Supervisors on managing the county’s parkland.  Maricopa’s park system is ranked the number one regional park system in the United States. Branch has served six terms as a commissioner.  During COVID, Branch was chairman of the Board for Parks, and he did not allow the parks to be shut down.

On his campaign website, Branch details his key campaign initiatives:

  • Stands with President Trump: Supports “America First” foreign policy and Trump’s border policies, including the completion of the border wall.
  • Election Integrity: Committed to ensuring transparency, accountability, and trust in the electoral system.
  • Water Rights Advocacy: Pledges to protect Arizona’s water rights vigorously.
  • Veterans’ Prioritization: As a veteran, pledges to focus on the rights and needs of veterans.
  • Girls’ Rights in Sports: Advocates for sports designated as girls’ or women’s to be exclusive to biological females.
  • Business and Valley Expansion: Aims to support smart and strategic expansion in the valley.
  • Education Excellence: Aims to make Maricopa County a model for educational excellence.

Debbie Lesko

Lesko (pictured above, right) began her political career in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2008 and later served in the Arizona State Senate from 2014 to 2018. In April 2018, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in a special election. During her tenure, Lesko focused on conservative issues, including law enforcement support and fiscal conservatism. In 2024, she announced she would not seek reelection to Congress so that she could spend more time with her family.

On her campaign website, Lesko lists the following as her key campaign goals in her run for Maricopa County Supervisor:

  • Tough on Crime: Advocate for adequate resources for the Sheriff’s Office and County Attorney’s Office.
  • Tough on Illegal Immigration: Supports increased border security measures and resources.
  • Election Integrity: Commits to ensuring a fair and transparent election process, upholding laws that require voter ID, proof of citizenship, and prohibit non-citizen voting and ballot harvesting.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: Focuses on maintaining a balanced budget with low debt and keeping property tax rates low in Maricopa County.
  • Economic Development: Support the growth of high-quality jobs and the development of safe, beautiful neighborhoods that enhance living standards.
  • Transportation: Prioritizes efficient use of taxpayer dollars for maintaining and improving road quality for better travel conditions.

The Sun Times contacted Lesko’s office for additional comment but did not receive a response by press time. However, her X account, @DebbieLesko, features posts that highlight numerous endorsements for her county supervisor campaign.

Arizona’s primary election is scheduled for July 30, where all registered voters in Maricopa County can participate to select the party candidates for the November general election. Independents or those registered as “Party Not Declared” must choose one party ballot. The deadline to register to vote in this primary is July 1st.

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Christy Kelly is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Christy on Twitter / X. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Bob Branch” by Bob Branch

 

 

 

 

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