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It’s Back to Business for Tucson’s Ron Barber

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Ron Barber will be sworn in as the 112th Congress’ newest Member today after winning a special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

As the one-time district director for Tucson-area former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, it’s sort of back to business for Democrat Ron Barber. He rode the wave of national attention that came with winning the competitive special election June 12, but now it’s time for him again to tackle the casework, legislation and issues pertaining to Arizona’s 8th district.

It inarguably won’t be the same sense of normalcy as before January 2011, when the tragic shooting in a Tucson parking lot took six lives and seriously injured Barber and Giffords. The Congresswoman’s injuries eventually caused her to resign the seat in January 2012, setting up the special election this month.

Barber is expected to be sworn in as the newest Democrat in the 112th Congress today. He even gets to extend the celebration: He and his wife, Nancy, will mark their 45th wedding anniversary Wednesday.

Barber is familiar with the mundane, often ungrateful work that comes with constituent service and legislating and is well-versed in the needs of his southeast Arizona region. What he might not be as familiar with is the posturing, politicizing or public scrutiny that comes with being a Member of Congress.

With less than six months remaining in the calendar year, Barber should have about 13 weeks in Washington, D.C., during which he can become adjusted, and then work, in his new job.

He says that civility and bipartisanship will drive his work.

“I want to go to Congress to be as bipartisan as I possibly can be,” he said the day after winning the election. He will likely exhibit a low-key, workmanlike demeanor when it comes to legislating, and as a moderate, he won’t be a solid party-line vote for the Democrats.

Barber says he traces his political inspiration to two figures: President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He was born in the United Kingdom, but he was raised on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson by his mother and stepfather, whom he considers his father figure.

After college at the University of Arizona, most of Barber’s jobs — including working for Head Start and then the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities — had an element of public service. His longtime private-sector job was operating a toy store with his wife, who now acts as a postpartum doula.

“If you’re fortunate enough to have an education, even if you don’t, just to be alive and to live a life, one of the most important responsibilities that you can carry out is to serve your community,” he said. “For me, it’s been public service.”

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