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Updated Mar 19, 2012, 2:22 pm
Ron Barber, the ex-Gabrielle Giffords aide who's seeking to fill her seat in the upcoming special election, said Monday that he'll also run for Congress in the fall election in the Second Congressional District.
"I'm very excited about the second race," Barber said, speaking to reporters during an afternoon conference call. "I'm ready to give it my all."
At least one of the Democrats who had already announced for the fall, state Rep. Steve Farley, stepped back from the CD 2 congressional race after Barber announced. Another, state Rep. Matt Heinz, said he's staying in the race.
"All of my life I've been a problem-solver," Barber said, describing his goal of seeking "middle ground, common ground."
Barber said he would try to "change the tone of political campaigns, at least in Southern Arizona."
The former district director for Giffords' office, Barber was shot in the cheek and leg in the Jan. 8 attack that killed six and wounded 13. Giffords resigned just over a year after the attack to focus on her recovery, setting the stage for a special election even as candidates jockey for the fall regular election cycle.
"This was a decision that took a lot of thought," the 66-year-old Barber told reporters.
Barber said his doctors told him he was "good to go" to run for office, and that he has been energized by five weeks on the campaign trail.
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"Running a campaign is not easy, but I'm having fun, in large part because of the people who are coming to help us," he said.
He said he came to a decision to run in the fall over the weekend, after discussing the election with his family.
"I don’t rush into things, but once I make a decision, I stick with it for the long haul. But don’t take my word for it. Ask my wife Nancy. We started dating in 1963," he said in a press release.
"Southern Arizonans are concerned about the future, and worried about what kind of future will be there for their children," Barber said. "They want a Congress that is on their side, and focused on protecting the middle class that's slowly disappearing. This nation cannot thrive without a thriving middle class."
"I am going to Washington to fight for middle class families, veterans and seniors, and to continue our work to bring home the resources we need to control our southern border," Barber said.
Barber said that Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are supporting his run for the CD 2 seat, as well as endorsing him to fill her CD 8 seat.
Barber announced in February that he was running in the special election to fill the vacant CD 8 seat, but held off until now on declaring his candidacy for the fall.
The winner of the June 12 special general vote will fill the CD 8 seat through next January. In the succeeding Congress, most of the district will be represented by the winner of the vote in the newly drawn CD 2.
Barber said he would run in the fall regardless of the outcome of the special election, but that he does "plan to be the incumbent."
Barber faces a late May deadline, prior to the June special election, to file nominating petitions for the fall race.
While Barber never closed the door on a fall run, he put off announcing a decision. Several of the Republican candidates blasted the idea of a "caretaker" or "placeholder" congressman.
His entry into the race throws into question whether Nan Stockholm Walden will throw her hat into the fall election cycle. A Democrat who owns pecan groves in Sahuarita, Walden worked in Washington, D.C., in the 1990s, and could bring those connections to the race.
Walden was mooted as a challenger to U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2010, but did not enter that race. McCain went on to handily defeat former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman.
Other candidates who were also in the running for the August Democratic primary were state House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, state Rep. Matt Heinz, state Sen. Paula Aboud, and former University of Arizona student Nomiki Konst. Those candidates stepped back from running in the special election, opting to support Barber instead.
Farley said Monday that he would bow out of the fall race, and "support Barber 100 percent."
"I think he'll be unbeatable in the fall, and I want to work to help ensure that," he said.
Farley will instead run for the state Senate, and seek to become that body's president, he said.
Heinz said he would remain in the CD 2 race.
"My plans haven't changed," he said Monday. "We were always expecting a competitive primary."
"I don't think (Barber's announcement) is a surprise," he said.
"The people deserve a choice," Heinz said. "The good thing about primaries, at least on the Democratic side, is that they tend to be positive. Whoever wins the primary will be a better candidate for having gone through" a contested election.
The others' plans weren't immediately available.
"I didn't ask anyone to drop out," Barber said. "Each one of them will obviously make their own decision."
Midnight Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the April 17 primary. Early voting in that election begins Thursday.
Only the Republicans have a contested primary, with Jesse Kelly, Frank Antenori, Martha McSally and Dave Sitton vying to face off with Barber.
Barber nearly died in the Jan. 8 shooting, as suffered nerve damage in his left leg. He now walks with a cane.
Following the attack, he and his family founded the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, dedicated to civil discourse, mental health awareness and the prevention of school bullying.
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