There are currently five Republicans in the race including Jesse Kelly, who challenged Giffords in the 2010 election. Other contenders in the special primary include Tucson broadcaster Dave Sitton, Senator Frank Antenori, former Air Force pilot Martha McCally, and John Lervold, a civilian instructor at the Army's Fort Huachuca.
Barber served as Gifford's district director from 2006 until she announced her intentions to step out of politics to focus on her recovery last month. Both Giffords and Barber were shot in the 2011 Tucson rampage that left 13 wounded and six dead. Giffords was shot in the head and Barber was shot in the face and in the leg.
Within a month of the tragedy, Barber was already involved in establishing the Fund for Civility, Respect, and Understanding to provide support to both survivors of the shooting and first responders. The fund also serves to decrease incidents of school bullying and promote an understanding and awareness of mental health issues. Jared Loughner, the suspect in the Tucson shooting, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is not yet fit to stand trial.
Barber, a former administrator in the Arizona Department of Economic Security's division of developmental disabilities, notes that although he is not a politician and has “never run for office before,” he was encouraged by both Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.
In an endorsement of Barber's candidacy, Kelly said “Ron is a leader who puts politics aside and brings people together. From running Gabby's district operations and working with people to resolve their problems, to 35 years of service helping people with disabilities, Ron has spent his career fighting for those in need. Gabby and I are honored to stand with Ron as he launches his campaign."
Barber has yet to decide whether he will run for the seat in the regular 2012 election as he is currently concentrating solely on the interim election. “I think it would be a little presumptuous of me to think about a second election when I haven't been able to get on the ballot yet.”
The special election primary for Giffords 8th district seat is scheduled for April 17 and the general election will be held on June 12, 2012.
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