Gabrielle Giffords Backs Top Aide for Her Former U.S. House Seat

Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, helped recruit an aide as her preferred successor to the Arizona congressional seat she gave up last month.

Ron Barber, who ran her district office from 2007 until resigning this week, announced today he will run in the special election to fill the remainder of Giffords’s term as she recovers from a gunshot wound to her head. Barber said he had no plans to seek public office until Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, approached him.

“Congresswoman Giffords asked me, and so did Mark, to consider running a couple weeks back,” Barber, 66, said on a conference call with reporters today. “I have their full support going forward, and I feel very fortunate and very honored to have that.”

Barber, who was hurt in the same Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that left Giffords gravely injured, said he will decide soon whether to also run for a full two-year term in November.

Barber was shot in the face and leg in the attack during a constituent event in Tucson. Six people died, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. Giffords suffered severe injuries that led to her decision to resign from office Jan. 25 to focus on her recovery.

Minutes after Barber’s announcement, Giffords’s husband e-mailed her supporters seeking donations to Barber’s campaign. The special-election primary is scheduled for April 17 and the general election will be June 12.

Competitive District

Arizona’s 8th Congressional District has long been viewed as competitive for both parties. A Republican held the seat for more than two decades before Giffords’s election in 2006. She beat Tea Party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly by fewer than two percentage points in 2010.

Barber said his health is “great” following his recovery from the shooting.

After Barber’s announcement, Democratic state Representative Matt Heinz, an internal medicine doctor, said he will withdraw from the special-election race and support Barber’s candidacy. Heinz said he will continue to campaign for a full two-year term in the Nov. 6 election.

Jesse Kelly is running to fill the seat, as are fellow Republicans state Senator Frank Antenori, sports announcer Dave Sitton and Martha E. McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. All said they will run in the special election and in November.

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