Giffords aide to seek her seat

Ron Barber was also wounded in the 2011 Tucson rampage.
Ron Barber was also wounded in the 2011 Tucson rampage.
Posted: February 10, 2012

PHOENIX - A top aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) who was shot in the leg and face in the Tucson rampage that also severely wounded the congresswoman announced Thursday that he would seek to replace her in a special election.

Democrat Ron Barber said he would run to serve the last six months of Giffords' term; she stepped down last month to focus on her recovery. He said Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, asked him to run.

Barber, 66, is a former administrator in the Arizona Department of Economic Security's division of developmental disabilities. He retired in 2006 to work for Giffords; he was her district director.

Kelly posted on Facebook that he and Giffords support Barber and urged donations to his campaign.

"Ron is a leader who puts politics aside and brings people together," Kelly also wrote in an e-mail seeking donations for Barber.

Because of goodwill in Tucson for Giffords and Barber after the shooting, the joint Giffords-Kelly endorsement stands to help Democrats keep the seat, said William Dixon, a University of Arizona political science professor.

The special election to fill her Eighth District seat is set for the spring. Barber said he had not decided whether to run for a full term in the regular election set for November in the redrawn Second District.

"I'm not a politician, never run for office before, so I'm taking this one step at a time," Barber said.

Barber and Giffords were among 13 people wounded in the Jan. 8, 2011, attack outside a Tucson supermarket. Six others were killed, including a 9-year-old girl.

A month later, Barber said he was setting up a nonprofit to fund school programs and community events.

The special election primary is set for April 17 and the general election June 12.

One other Democrat, State Rep. Matt Heinz, had announced his run for the seat. But Heinz said Thursday that he would respect Giffords' support for Barber in the special election and now run only for a full term. "I will refocus my efforts for the fall," Heinz said.

Five Republicans are in the race.

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