Ron Barber, an aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was wounded in the shooting spree that also injured Giffords, will run to replace her in the House.
Barber announced Thursday he would run in the special election to replace Giffords and said she had personally asked him to enter the race. Giffords resigned from Congress last month to focus on her recovery from the shooting.
Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, said he and Giffords were supporting Barber's campaign.
"While there will never be anyone who can fill Congresswoman Giffords’ shoes, I look forward to continuing her legacy of putting problem-solving before politics," Barber said in announcing his candidacy.
Barber served as Giffords's district director, staying on after he was shot twice in the shooting spree in Tucson.
"My roots in southern Arizona go deep. I've lived here since 1959," he told reporters on a conference call. "Having survived the tragic shooting on Jan. 8, I really feel fortunate I've gotten to serve my community in a new way."
Barber said he had never anticipated running for public office, but that the idea had come from Giffords herself.
"The congresswoman looked at me directly and said: 'Ron, will you run?' That started a discussion with my family," he said.
Asked by The Hill whether Giffords would campaign on his behalf, Barber said he wasn't sure, but that he had a strong bond with the former congresswoman and considered himself to be a moderate of the same mold as Giffords.
"Hard to say. Certainly she and Mark have said they will do everything they can" to support his candidacy, he said.
Kelly wrote Thursday on Facebook that he and Giffords were "honored to support Ron Barber for Congress."
"Ron will be a congressman who will put politics aside and focus on the needs of Southern Arizona – balancing the budget the right way, by
protecting Social Security and Medicare, creating jobs, protecting our military families and bases, and securing our border," Kelly wrote.
He also appealed to supporters to jump-star Barber's campaign by helping him amass 1,000 donors by Monday, including a link to a site where supporters could contribute.
In another sign of support from those close to Giffords, Barber's announcement release was circulated by Rodd McLeod, who ran her congressional campaigns.
Barber was shot in the face and the leg in the shooting rampage that killed six and left Giffords severely injured and in need of intense rehabilitation to relearn to speak and to walk. Barber said that while he and his family had been through a lot, he was physically up to the task of serving in Congress.
"I'm pleased to say my health has gotten better by the minute, by the day," he said. "I assessed that. That was a big part of my decision-making."
Republicans had said that if Giffords ran for reelection, they would not contest the seat. But with Giffords out of the contest, all bets are off.
Giffords's 2010 opponent, Republican Jesse Kelly, has announced he will make another go for the seat. So has Frank Antenori, a Republican state senator.
Democrat Matt Heinz, a Tucson physician, has already announced a bid for the seat. But Barber said Heinz had vowed to drop out of the race if Barber decided to run.
- This post was posted at 12:35 p.m. and has been updated.