Democrat Ron Barber, Gabrielle Giffords' former district director, won the special election Tuesday to succeed his former boss in Arizona's 8th District, holding the open House seat for his party and earning a leg up in the race for a full term.
Barber led Republican Jesse Kelly, a Marine veteran and Giffords' 2010 challenger, 52 to 45 percent in the Tucson-area district.
The district leans Republican but remains highly competitive territory-- prompting some national interest from outside groups as well as party strategists in Washington. Republicans attempted to capitalize on the president and Obamacare's low approval numbers, tying Barber to each, while Barber cast Kelly as an opponent of Social Security.
"Ron Barber's strong campaign made this a referendum on the Republican plans to drastically cut Medicare and privatize Social Security, while giving massive tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement. "The Republican plan lost."
Israel said Democrats plan to capitalize on similar themes this election year.
Barber is expected to soon be sworn in by Congress to represent the open seat, which Giffords vacated in January amid her continued recovery from a January 2011 shooting attack at a town hall event. Barber also sustained injuries in that attack.
But this isn't the last time Barber and Kelly will be competing.
While Barber is now set to serve out the remainder of Giffords' current term, voters will still need to choose a representative for the coming session of Congress beginning in January 2013. Due to redistricting, most of the current 8th has been incorporated into the newly drawn and renumbered 2nd District, for which Barber, Kelly and additional candidates are running to represent. The primary for that race is Aug. 28.
Barber's win Tuesday offers him an advantage heading into the fight for a full term.