Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Blog

By Johara Hall

2012 Summer Intern

A 2012 special election in Arizona's 8th congressional district was held on June 12, 2012 to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The race between Democrat Ron Barber, Giffords’s former district director who was also injured during the Tucson shooting, and Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq War veteran and Tea Party favorite, was a test-run for the upcoming November elections. With indications of being a close race, the GOP and Democrats closely watched as Barber defeated his Republican rival despite attempts by the GOP to capture the seat, leading Kelly 53 percent to 45 percent.

Both parties used various tactics to help win the district. The GOP insisted on linking Barber to his national party by emphasizing his connections to President Obama, the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Obama’s health care law. However, Barber, like Giffords during her campaign, made sure to distance himself from the Obama administration throughout the race. Toward the end of his campaign, Barber also relied heavily on Giffords’s popularity to garner additional support.

On the other hand, the Democrats chose to capitalize on Kelly’s former campaign positions that were both anti-Social Security and anti-Medicare. In a district with one of the largest numbers of senior citizens in the country, the Democrats’ strategy proved fruitful. Kelly attempted to play down his former position by airing campaign ads addressing the senior citizens of the district, but his efforts were largely ineffective.

The Democratic Party along with other groups spent about $900,000 on the race, while the Republican Party and conservative organizations spent around $1.4 million on Kelly’s behalf.

This closely followed contest was the last congressional special election before November’s general election and with less than five months until the 2012 election, both parties are tweaking their strategies before facing each other on the big ballot.

Arab American State Representative Matt Heinz endorsed Ron Barber after having dropped out of the race in April, but still plans to run for Giffords’ old seat in the newly formed Second Congressional District in November against fellow Arab American, Paula Aboud, who now serves as an Arizona State Senator. This will be the first time two Arab Americans will run for the same congressional seat. It is not yet clear if Barber will run for a full term come November. 

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