Rep. Debbie Lesko spent last week mingling with the top of the political food chain.
After a trip aboard Air Force One to join President Donald Trump on a tour of Honeywell’s mask-making facility in Phoenix, Lesko joined Trump and other Republican lawmakers for a May 8 roundtable discussing the response to COVID-19 and reopening the economy.
“Please don’t let all the critics get you down,” Lesko said to Trump, early in the roundtable. “There are so many people out there, so many people in Arizona and throughout the nation that think you’re doing a great job.”
Three days before the roundtable, Lesko, like Trump, did not wear a mask during the Honeywell tour.
“The Honeywell workers were all wearing masks,” Lesko said.
“The reason the president and vice president and governor and me and others didn’t have to wear a mask is because we all just got tested and we were all negative.”
Lesko said her May 5 morning started at the White House. Though she received a negative COVID-19 test in Peoria in April when she had a fever, Lesko went through a “rapid test” at the White House.
After being cleared, she took a van ride and boarded Air Force One for the flight to Phoenix.
She spent some of the flight in a conference room, with Trump popping in and out. Lesko said she also visited Trump’s Air Force One office.
Lesko said her first trip on the presidential plan “was very exciting.”
“I called my mother, called my brother, my husband, my daughter. When he heard, ‘Operator assistance, call from Air Force One,’ my brother thought it was a joke.
“It was an absolutely awesome experience,” Lesko said. “I’m totally blessed. Not too many people get the opportunity to fly Air Force One with the president.”
She said she had the opportunity for brief interactions with Trump.
“He loves Arizona,” Lesko said. “He was in a good mood.
“Just like the rest of us, he gets antsy to get out of the house and get back to some kind of normalcy.”
Lesko’s 8th Congressional District and the rest of Arizona attempted a guarded return to normalcy this week, with retail shops reopening and restaurants able to serve customers for sit-down meals.
“I think it’s good we’re reopening society,” Lesko said. “Like Gov. (Doug) Ducey said, we still need to practice social distancing and wear the mask when possible.
“People who are high risk, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, they’re the ones being advised to stay home more. The rest of us not in that high-risk group — as long as we practice safety I think it’s a good thing,” Lesko said.
“People need to see family and friends, they want to go to church, they want to go to work. There’s mental-health risks to being locked up in your home. I’m a very optimistic person, and sometimes I was getting depressed. I’m sick of being locked up at home.”
After flying back to Peoria over the weekend, Lesko had plans to help kick-start the local economy in a small way:
“I want to go to El Pollo Loco/ That’s the place my husband and I go before or after church on Sundays.”