Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is expected to announce as early as Wednesday or Thursday that she is endorsing the man who served as her office’s district director – and who was wounded with her in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting melee in Tucson – to fill out the remainder of her congressional term.
As part of the decision, Ron Barber, 66, is agreeing to not seek reelection this fall to represent a newly drawn version of the Tucson area district, according to multiple sources in Arizona and Washington, who are familiar with the discussions.
“It’s the perfect solution – it’s not official yet but all signs point that way,” said Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers, in an interview on Tuesday with National Journal. Barber did not immediately return a telephone call or e-mail.
Barber was shot in the face and the leg in the 2011 attack in which a gunman shot Giffords in the head, and 18 others. Six died.
Giffords resigned her House seat on Jan. 25, as she focuses on rehabilitating from her wounds.
But even before she formally stepped down, the sources said, Giffords, her husband, Mark Kelly, and a small group of advisers had talked with Barber about his running to fill out the remainder of her term in a June 12 special election.
Rogers said Barber would be a candidate best-situated to continue Giffords’ congressional work and her “legacy” for the remainder of the term. He also said it is widely believed there would be little, if any, opposition to challenge the sentimental choice of Barber.
The race this fall for the newly drawn district is expected to attract several candidates on both sides of the aisle, however.
The anticipated timing of the Barber endorsement and candidacy this week comes as candidates have only two full weekends left to collect the 700 signatures needed to gain a ballot spot for the April 17 special election primary. To guard against petition challenges, candidates normally will try to collect 1,200 to 2,000 names. Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer has set the special election itself for June 12.
Prior to working for Giffords, Barber had been the program manager for the Arizona Department of Economic Security division of developmental disability in Pima County until his retirement in January 2006.
Barber’s agreement to act as sort of a caretaker of the congressional seat through the end of the year, but not seek reelection, could resurrect speculation that Kelly might still run this fall for his wife’s former seat. So far, Kelly has said he will not run as he continues to focus on her recovery.