Democrat wins vote to replace Gabrielle Giffords

Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 01:00

TUCSON/PHOENIX – Democrat Ron Barber, whom former US representative Gabrielle Giffords picked as her successor, has defeated his Republican rival in a closely followed special election seen by many political strategists as testing ground for the power of national issues in deciding competitive races.

Mr Barber’s win over Jesse Kelly (30) was largely secured by voters in Pima County, Arizona, the largest of the four counties that make up the district and also home to Tucson, Ms Giffords’ former hometown. Turnout there and in most other parts of the district was high for a special election, reflecting the significance of the race and Ms Giffords’ draw on voters.

With 66 per cent of precincts reporting, Mr Barber (66) had secured roughly 53 per cent of the vote. Mr Kelly had 45 per cent, while Charlie Manolakis, the Green Party candidate, came in at a distant third, with 2.3 per cent.

It was a contest full of emotion, making results in an already volatile district even harder to predict. The southern Arizona district is majority Republican, but many of its Republican voters espouse liberal views on social issues, as do many of the independents, who make up 30 per cent of the electorate. The district also picked Ms Giffords, a Democrat, to succeed its longtime representative, Jim Kolbe, a Republican, after his retirement in 2007.

Ms Giffords resigned in January, a year after she was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket in Tucson, where she had been greeting constituents. Mr Barber, one of her top aides, was among the 12 others who were injured. Six people died.

The race attracted more money than the average special election, most of it coming from political action committees – and most of it going to Mr Kelly, who had come close to defeating Ms Giffords in 2010. Republicans sought to establish connections between Mr Barber and US president Barack Obama, who is not widely popular among voters in southern Arizona.

Democrats used TV advertisements to dispel Mr Kelly’s moderate tone during the campaign, using statements he had made when he ran against Ms Giffords.

Mr Barber and Mr Kelly will run against each other for a full term in November. – (New York Times service)