Ron Barber, an aide to former representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), will run for the House seat she just left.
Barber, 66, was Giffords’s district director from her election in 2007 until she retired last month. He was shot twice, once in the face and once in the leg, in the shootings in Tucson that left six dead and nearly killed his boss.
“Our community needs someone who will put politics aside and solve problems for the people of Southern Arizona,” he said in a statement. “My commitment is to be honest with the people of this district and help restore civility to our public life.”
He has Giffords’s support in the primary, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) sent out an email calling Barber “a good friend.”
State Rep. Matt Heinz is also running, but Barber told reporters he hoped that his rival would step aside.
“We have a very strong bond, I know what her priorities are,” Barber told reporters of his former boss on a conference call Thursday afternoon. “ I’m a moderate, like she is.”
The special election for Giffords’s 8th district seat will take place June 12. Another election for what will become the 2nd district after redistricting will occur this fall.
Barber’s announcement left unclear whether he is planning to run for the seat again in November or is merely serving as a placeholder, as some news organizations have reported.
“I really haven’t made that decision yet,” Barber told reporters. “I think it would be a little presumptuous of me to think about a second election when I haven’t been able to get on the ballot yet.”
It’s a swing seat, but Republicans will have difficulty beating a man so closely associated with the congresswoman and the Tucson tragedy.
“Not a lot of people are going to vote against him,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told the New York Times.
Other Republicans, however, signalled that they planned to contest the race.
“No one wanted this special election to happen, but it comes at a time when Arizona and our country are at a critical crossroads,” National Republican Congressional Committee Spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said in a statement. “The issues and challenges are too great to deny voters a full debate on which candidate is best to secure our border, create jobs and turn our economy around.”