After one week on the job in Congress, newly-elected Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) plans to head home and hold his first meeting with constituents Saturday in much the same way that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was meeting with voters before being shot last year.
Barber’s inaugural “Congress On Your Corner” event will occur at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson — a few miles from another Safeway where Giffords was meeting with voters last January when a gunman approached and shot her, Barber and others, and killed six people.
As she continued to recover from her gunshot injuries, Giffords announced her resignation in January and signaled that she wanted Barber to succeed her. Fulfilling those wishes, Barber won a special election last week by defeating Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq war veteran who ran against Giffords in 2010.
Barber was sworn in Tuesday to complete the balance of Giffords’s term and plans to run for a full term in November — but Saturday’s event is billed as an official congressional event.
“Congress on Your Corner” events began after the 2006 congressional elections when House Democrats swept into the majority for the first time in 12 years. They were the brainchild of then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who had recruited Giffords to run, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), at the time the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
With more than 40 Democratic newcomers to the House, the leadership wanted these freshmen to stay in tune with the voters in their districts and suggested they just set up a table outside shopping markets and libraries on weekends, spending several hours letting voters approach them to discuss whatever was on their mind.
Barber plans to do just that: “This event is the first of many I will hold so that I can be accessible to all of my constituents throughout Southern Arizona,” he said in a statement Thursday. “I will not become isolated in Washington. My work at the Capitol will be influenced by what I hear and learn here in Arizona.”
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
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