Ex-Giffords aide Ron Barber wins Arizona House race

Reuters News

11/17/2012 6:50:09 PM - Reuters News

By Jazmine Woodberry

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabrielle Giffords who was wounded alongside her in a deadly 2011 shooting, has won a full term in Congress after defeating Republican Martha McSally in a closely contested race.

Barber, 67, who won a special election in June to finish out Giffords' term, said McSally called him on Saturday morning to concede. They were running in the November 6 election to represent southeast Arizona in the state's redrawn 2nd Congressional District.

McSally confirmed on her Facebook page that she called Barber to "congratulate him on his victory."

The contest was too close to call on election night last week and officials have since counted tens of thousands of provisional ballots cast in the race, as the lead swung back and forth between the two candidates.

Barber had a 1,402-vote lead as of Friday night and he claimed victory as the last ballots were being counted. More than 285,000 votes were cast.

"It's been a long wait, but here we are," Barber told reporters on Saturday. "Ultimately, people saw a difference between us about the issues that are important."

In her Facebook message, McSally said: "While this particular battle is over, I still have a fire in my belly to make a difference and serve our community and country. I look forward to seeing where that call to duty takes me next."

Barber was shot in the face and thigh on January 8, 2011, when Jared Loughner opened fire at an event outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents. Six people were killed in the shooting spree and 13 were wounded, including Giffords with a shot to the head.

Loughner, who had a history of psychiatric disorders, pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced on November 8 to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Barber was the front-runner going into the race. Early votes and an endorsement from Giffords bolstered his campaign. McSally, 46, a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot, emerged on election night with a lead that put her thousands of votes ahead.

That lead evaporated as the final ballots were counted.

The Republicans retained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 6 election.

(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney)