Ron Barber, a former aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, won Tuesday’s special election to complete Giffords’ congressional term. Arizona Republic congressional reporter Rebekah Sanders talks about the race between Barber, a Democrat, and Republican Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly.
Ted Simons: Ron Barber is the new Arizona representative in congressional district 8. Barber, a former aide to congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, defeated tea party candidates Jesse Kelly in a special election to serve out Giffords' congressional term. The race drew national interest as a possible bellwether for November's general election. Here to talk about yesterday's vote is Rebekah Sanders of the "Arizona republic." good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. Surprised at all with these results?
Rebekah Sanders: A bit. We thought that this might be a tighter race at the end, but it was a landslide for barber and it was pretty interesting to see that.
Ted Simons: Who is Mr. Barber? Describe his campaign for us.
Rebekah Sanders: Former aide to Gabrielle Giffords, friend of hers. Was not intending to run but she asked him to. And he ran a campaign that was about a lot of Democratic talking points that you will see in the fall, fighting for the middle class, attacking his opponent, Jesse Kelly, for stances on Social Security and Medicare and corporate taxes, those kinds of things. And he won by about seven points. It was pretty convincing.
Ted Simons: So he did not necessarily run away from the administration in this race.
Rebekah Sanders: Oh, he did distance himself for sure from President Obama, and the Republicans were trying to tie him to Obama and Nancy Pelosi, definitely.
Ted Simons: The impact of Gabrielle Giffords asking him to run and her subsequent endorsement how big was that down there?
Rebekah Sanders: It's hard to tell for sure but it definitely seems like, with this convincing of a result, that she really was, you know, strongly in voters' minds. And most of the, in fact, all of the voters that I talked to when asked, does she play into your vote, would say, no, but on the other hand, it's reasonable to think this was filling out last six months of her term and who her choice was kind of should be the one to fill it out.
Ted Simons: The opponent, Jesse Kelly, tell us about him. What kind of race did he run?
Rebekah Sanders: He was running a campaign that seemed somewhat different from his campaign in 2010, in that two years ago when he ran against Giffords, he used very strong rhetoric. He held a campaign event about shooting an M-16 with Jesse Kelly. He's a Marine veteran who did a tour in Iraq and some of his mailers had photos of him on his tour with guns. None of that this time. Nice photos of him and his wife and sons, ads with his grandfather on TV. I think trying to be toning the rhetoric down a little bit.
Ted Simons: Was there a big issue in this race? Something that stood out more anything?
Rebekah Sanders: Again, a lot of these talking points that you will see Democrats and Republicans use in the future on Kelly's side, the republican points were, lower taxes to get the economy going. Creating jobs by using more American energy such as approving the keystone pipeline, cutting government spending, getting government out of the bay way of business, those kinds of things.
Ted Simons: Any misstep, any ah-ha moments any candidate would regret, especially Kelly since he came up short?
Rebekah Sanders: That's really hard to say. I think one of the knocks against barber is that he's a bit, he's a guy who really connects well on the one on one, but isn't the traditional outgoing, charismatic politician type who connects on a stage. But clearly he connected enough to get this win. Jesse Kelly, I think that what really came back to bite him was his statements in 2010 about privatizing social security and trying to phase out Medicare and those kind of things. Which he tried to say over and over, this campaign, look, I have always said I would protect the benefits of current recipients. This is just for the future. But even though that worried a lot of seniors.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, will we see, again, we need to remind everyone this is Congressional District 8, the same area will be Congressional District 2 come the next election. The same general area. Obviously, it takes a little bit. We will see Kelly run again for the cd 2?
Rebekah Sanders: I think this is the most important question post election. Will Jesse Kelly run again or not? District 2 was redistricted. And what's interesting is, its boundary, a lot of the places where Kelly was strong in his 2010 election, presumably, this election, will no longer be in this district. In fact, his home will not be in the new district. And so that may hurt him. In addition, he's lost two elections. There is another republican candidate, Martha Mcsally, and another fairly unknown one who will be challenging in the primary. And Republican Party members may say, look, your time is over. It's time to pass the baton on and Mcsally has definitely gained traction. There's a lot of buzz about her being a strong candidate.
Ted Simons: There was a lot of buzz about her in the primary.
Rebekah Sanders: Well, exactly.
Ted Simons: Last question. As far as Barber is concerned, he will run again. Correct?
Rebekah Sanders: He will run. And it looks like he will have a challenger in the primary. State representative Matt Hines who is a physician in Tucson.
Ted Simons: Interesting. We weren't sure. Usually you don't see that kind of thing with an incumbent but so many Democrats had their eye on that seat and he wasn't necessarily expected to run again initially, was he?
Rebekah Sanders: He kept is an open question. And behind the scenes, Democrats have said that they were told that he was not going to run for the full term. But he changed his mind, according to them, or according to him, he just decided that people were supporting him and wanted him to run in both.
Ted Simons: Interesting. That campaign is already underway just because the election is over for the special. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us here.
Rebekah Sanders: Thank you.
Rebekah Sanders:Reporter, Arizona Republic;