By The Hill Staff - 06/12/12 12:09 AM EDT
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Saturday urged voters to back Ron Barber, a former aide who was shot during last year’s Tucson rampage that left six dead.
Barber is facing Jesse Kelly, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who nearly defeated Giffords in 2010.
“It was incredibly hard for her to resign,” Giffords’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, told the Arizona crowd over the weekend. “And the person she knew could represent this district like she did is standing to my left.”
Tuesday’s special election between Barber and Jesse Kelly is expected to be close.
The district leans conservative, with home-state Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) having easily defeated President Obama there four years ago.
Not surprisingly, Barber has sought to put some distance between his campaign and Democrats in Washington, including Obama.
Last week, Barber pushed back against Democrats on Capitol Hill who have used the phrase “Gabby’s seat” in fundraising pleas.
“This is not Gabby’s seat,” Barber told MSNBC. “This is not Ron Barber’s seat. This is the people’s seat.”
Some political pundits will undoubtedly say that Tuesday’s results are a bellwether for things to come this fall. Not so fast.
In 2006, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) won a tough special election to replace Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R), who is now in prison. Republicans breathed a sigh of relief — then lost control of Congress later that year.
Similarly, Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) won the special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in 2010. Months later, Democrats lost 63 House seats and control of the lower chamber.
Giffords has not indicated whether she will campaign for other Democrats this fall, including Obama. But Obama’s campaign has hinted it might seek to compete in Arizona, and if it does, Giffords could be asked to help the president.