The special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona will be decided next week. The contest between Republican Jesse Kelly and Democrat Ron Barber is viewed as a tossup and as a messaging test for both parties.
He tends to vote Republican, except in the case of Giffords, and now, Barber.
“We’re definitely Giffords fans,” he said. He added that voting for Barber was “an automatic” because of the Giffords endorsement.
Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly have posted on Facebook about their support for Barber, her image has appeared in a direct mail piece and they have sent out fundraising solicitations. And Barber is eager to mention that Giffords made a surprise appearance at his campaign’s kickoff.
But to the surprise of many in Tucson, she has not appeared in television ads in support of Barber.
“She’s done everything that we’ve asked her to do,” he said.
“I don’t want to exploit the Congresswoman. I don’t want to take advantage of our relationship. I welcome her support, but I have not tried to make it over-the-top by asking her to do things that I think are not appropriate.”
Handicapping this race has proved to be especially difficult. A special election in June is uncharted territory for campaign operatives. The retired snowbirds have mostly left for the summer, and the absentee ballot process is cumbersome. Turnout is also expected to be low, given that the Congressional race is the only thing on the ballot.
Still, Kelly is bullish.
The district has trended Republican over the past 10 years. Kelly and his strategists learned lessons in 2010 and are applying them now.
“It’s just a matter of informing the voters what our plan is for this economy, and so far, the response has been so great,” he said. “If we continue to do that, we will win.”
But a few unaligned political insiders willing to bet on this race privately give the edge to Barber going into the closing week.
“All I know is that the worst thing I think you can do is assume you’re going to win,” Barber said about his outlook. “I think you have to run hard and fast to the very end.”
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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