WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are hoping that late campaign appearances by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will help push her hand-picked successor to victory in a special congressional election in Arizona.
Republicans, trying to make the southern Arizona House race a referendum on President Obama and his handling of the economy, are running a former Marine who narrowly lost to Mrs. Giffords two years ago.
The Arizona race is just one of the election battles taking place across the nation Tuesday. Voters in Virginia, Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina are taking part in primary elections.
Mrs. Giffords, 42, resigned in January to focus on her recovery from a gunshot wound to her head during a gunman’s shooting spree a year earlier. Six people died and 13 were wounded at a constituent event she was hosting outside a Tucson supermarket.
She has made few public appearances since the shooting but has returned to Tucson in recent days to help the former director of her district office, Ron Barber, in his race to succeed her in the House. His Republican opponent is Jesse Kelly.
Mrs. Giffords attended a concert Saturday night and listened as her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf in praising Mr. Barber, who was wounded in the shooting. The couple met Sunday with volunteers to thank them for their work.
“Some of those people used to be her supporters,” Mark Kelly said after the meeting. “But now Ron has his own team that’s energized to make sure he gets across the finish line on Tuesday, and Gabby is very excited about that.”
Jesse Kelly — he is not related to Mrs. Giffords‘ husband — continued to make the case in the election’s final hours that Mr. Barber and Mr. Obama are out of touch with people in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Republicans have a 26,000-person edge over Democrats in voter registrations.
“It’s time to put a stop to the Barber-Obama team,” Jesse Kelly’s campaign said in its final ad.
Outside groups have spent more than $2 million on the Arizona race. Mr. Barber, 66, had a sizable fundraising lead in late May, but spending from conservative groups helped reduce it.
The Arizona 8th is a rare swing district that is competitive in virtually every election. Mrs. Giffords defeated Jesse Kelly by about 4,000 votes in 2010 when the election focused on immigration and when tea partyers rallied to the tough-talking former Marine. Now, the economy and jobs are atop voters’ concerns.
“Emotions are very high. People are very concerned about the economy and tiring of just limping along,” said John Ellinwood, a spokesman for the Kelly campaign.
Jesse Kelly, 30, has called for lower taxes and more energy production as a way to improve the economy. He would roll back federal regulations and environmental protections in an effort to boost oil and gas drilling.
Mr. Barber also is trying to convince voters that he understands their concerns. He frequently talks about building up the solar industry and the need to cut taxes, but only for the middle class. While Jesse Kelly has made it clear he would not support any income tax increases, Mr. Barber has said the wealthy need to “pay their fair share.”
Immigration is still an important issue. Jesse Kelly wants a double-layer fence built along the district’s border with Mexico. Mr. Barber is skeptical the fence would work on the district’s rugged terrain. He has called for more manpower, horse patrols and the use of drones.View Entire Story
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