Gabrielle Giffords endorsed her former district director Thursday in the special election to fill the House seat she vacated, according to a fundraising letter bearing the name of her husband.
With Giffords’ backing, Ron Barber, 66, is widely anticipated to be a sentimental favorite in the special election for the Tucson-area seat, and it is seen as likely other candidates will step aside.
“We are writing today to share some exciting news: Our good friend Ron Barber is running to represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District in Congress,” reads the “Dear Friends” letter bearing Mark Kelly’ name, and marked as “paid for” by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Gabby and I are honored to stand with Ron as he launches his campaign,” the letter states. “We have set a goal of helping him get 1,000 donors before Monday to get his campaign off the ground quickly.”
Barber was shot in the face and leg in the 2011 attack in which a gunman killed six and wounded 12 others in Tucson, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. Giffords resigned on Jan. 25 to focus on her physical rehabilitation.
The primary election will be held April 17. The special election is June 12. In November, the seat will be up for grabs again.
Earlier Thursday, Barber formally announced his candidacy. “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.
He added, “My first priority won’t be the next election -- but the next generation.”
But Barber’s announcement did not specify whether he plans to run again in November for a full two-year term.
National Journal reported Tuesday that his decision was made in collaboration with Giffords and her small group of her advisors over the last few weeks. According to multiple Democratic officials in Washington and Arizona, the decision included an understanding that he would not seek reelection this fall to represent a newly drawn version of Giffords’ district.
But a campaign spokesman said Thursday that Barber had not yet made a decision about running for another term.
Kelly’s letter does not shed any light on that.