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Fighting to Succeed Giffords

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
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.

The 8th district, as it is drawn now, is pure swing territory, and next week’s race will be decided by independent voters.

There is little evidence that there are many Democrats willing to vote for Kelly. But there are some Republicans who will cross over, based on residual loyalty to Giffords.

One such voter is Bo Downey, a National Rifle Association member from Willcox who was in Tombstone for the annual “Wyatt Earp Days” celebration.

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.”

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