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Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Barber takes win over Kelly for CD 8 representative seat

Robert Alcaraz
Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Summer Wildcat Democrat Ron Barber makes speech after winning the CD 8 election on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Alongside the new Representative was former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.

“All this and Van Morrison, too?”

Newly-elected Democrat Ron Barber began his speech by lightening the mood after taking the stage to “Bright Side of the Road” to announce his victory over Jesse Kelly by nearly seven percentage points in a ballroom of the University Marriott on Tuesday evening.

With Barber was a group of family and friends, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the representative he had been an aide for before she announced her resignation from the seat in January, and her husband Mark Kelly.

“A year ago, I never thought I’d be standing here, thanking you for your support and your work in electing Congress,” Barber said. “But as you know, life takes unexpected turns, and here we are.”

Barber continued to say that while he never predicted that he would run for Congress, taking the seat “made sense,” having always been a citizen of southern Arizona.

The candidate kept the speech brief, ending with a round of thanks to his friends, family, colleagues and supporters across Tucson who continued to affirm their endorsements.

“I just think Ron Barber has so much potential to make good changes,” said Lisa Marks, a spring 2012 UA graduate of special education and rehabilitation. “I think Jesse Kelly is so close-minded and completely backward.”

Erik Lundstrom, the president of the Young Democrats of Arizona and a political science senior at the UA, also voiced his support for Barber, citing his extensive knowledge as the main reason.
“The first time I met him, which was after he declared (his candidacy), I was just impressed with his breadth of knowledge,” Lundstrom said. “He knew more about every single subject that I’ve ever heard.” Lundstrom added that Barber’s level of kindness is also an important trait for a candidate to have.

Jill Ekegren, a Tucson resident for the last 10 years and a former volunteer for Giffords’ campaigns, said she wanted to show her support for Giffords by voting for Barber.

“He won’t duplicate her in any fashion, but he will carry through with Gabby’s vision toward providing a better southern Arizona,” Ekegren said.

Pima County District 5 Supervisor Richard Elías also attended Barber’s banquet.

“I think Ron’s going to be a great Congressman,” Elías said. “I’ve supported him all along. He’s had a great career, good values, someone you can trust.”

Candidates from other districts also showed up to support Barber as a potential team member in Washington, including Congressional District 3 Democratic Candidate Manny Arreguin, who will run against Raúl Grijalva in August.

“Tucson is a strong Democratic town, and I’m hoping that we send the right message in sending people who are going to be moderates to Washington D.C.,” Arreguin said.

Meanwhile …

Jesse Kelly’s supporters, voters and endorsers chatted and waited for election updates at Rosario’s restaurant in the Viscount Suite Hotel Tuesday night.

Voters said they were hopeful, some even confident, that Kelly would win the Congressional District 8 special election. “I think everybody here knows that Jesse won, we’re just waiting to hear the final results,” said Barney P. Popkin, minutes before Kelly’s announcement of the results.

At around 9:40 p.m., Kelly walked to the podium to announce that the statistics were on Barber’s side.

“I wouldn’t have done a thing different,” he said. “Obviously, perfection is something that escapes us all and definitely me. We came into this race with a plan, we executed the plan we wanted.
But the voters of southern Arizona chose something different and that’s fine. We are blessed by God to live in a country where the voters get exactly what they want. And so they’ve spoken here and we respect that.”

Kelly kept his speech short and answered few questions from the press, hoping to go home and get some sleep, he said.

When asked about whether he’d run in the August primary, Kelly responded, “Most likely, but we’re not going to announce any official plans until tomorrow.” Kelly was also asked if his loss in this election would make the Republican victory in November more difficult.

“You know, I left my crystal ball in my truck,” Kelly responded jokingly as the crowd laughed. “I just don’t know, I don’t know.”

Believing that Kelly is what southern Arizona needed in order to move forward, supporters and Republican voters said they were disappointed when they heard of Barber’s victory. Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, who will be running in the August primary against Raúl Grijalva, said Congressional District 8 had an “eight percent advantage of registered Republicans.”

“Obviously the Republicans, they let us down,” Saucedo Mercer said in reference to other Republican candidates who had lost to Kelly in the primary. “He won the primary against three other good candidates so it’s a shame that … sore losers just cannot come around and support him a hundred percent.”

One of these primary candidates, Senator Frank Antenori, attended Kelly’s election party as did many of his supporters.

“You circle the wagons and you fight for you know what you believe is the common cause and that’s limited government and fiscal conservative principals,” Antenori said. “So Ron Barber is the antithesis of that. He will spend money and bloat and expand government.”

Many attendees supported Kelly because of his intent to reduce government which would ideally reduce taxes as well.

“We want to send a conservative to congress and Ron Barber is not a conservative. He’s another Obama,” said Maria Apodaca, treasurer of the Arizona Latino Republican Association. “You can’t tax your way into prosperity, you have to let the free market work itself. Government cannot create jobs.”

Apodaca also supports Kelly’s views of pro-life, religious freedom and his military support. Jazmin Burton, who voted for the first time Tuesday, also found Kelly’s campaign appealing because of his military views.

“I’m a big fan of the way he supports the military because I’m in the military so that’s a big part of why (he got her vote),” Burton said.

Smiles and laughter within the crowd turned to sadness and disappointment once Kelly announced his defeat. But some kept their head up knowing that there’s another race to run in November, and the primary elections are only two months away.

“I’m sad, but we have a race to run and there’s no room for sadness. We have to keep going,” Saucedo Mercer said. “We need real change. Not hoping change. Change.”

On to Washington

Barber’s win in this special election will fill the previously empty seat until another regular election in November. While Barber is expected to begin campaigning for that election in the coming weeks, Kelly announced his withdrawal on June 14, saying he decided “to seek other opportunities.”

The new Congressman said he plans to immediately begin focusing on bipartisanship when he arrives to Washington, adding that many issues he plans to tackle are issues on both sides of the aisle, including improving veteran services, curbing the money laundering of border drug cartels and keeping taxes low for the middle class.

“I believe there are people of good will on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I know these are positions and issues on which I can find partners in the Republican party.”

Barber may now have his name on the position, but he’s made it clear that it’s not his at all.

“This is not my position, this is the people’s position, and I really mean that,” he added. “What we’re sent to do is to serve because we’ve been hired by the people of southern Arizona … You’ve got to make sure that you’re truly a representative of the people, and that’s what I intend to do.”

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