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Barber: Not running again, cites family

Just months after losing his congressional seat by just 167 votes, Ron Barber has decided that he won't run for Congress again, saying that although he "enjoyed the job immensely," he was forced to miss "precious time" with his grandchildren.

"We won't launch another campaign in 2016 ... the most important reason for me is my family," Barber said Sunday morning.

Barber, who won election to the U.S. House in a June 2012 special election to fill the seat vacated by Gabrielle Giffords, was re-elected that fall to a full term. He sent GOP candidate Jesse Kelly packing in the special, and narrowly defeated McSally in the November 2012 race.

The 2014 rematch was even closer, with a month-long recount before McSally was declared the winner by state officials.

The Democrat announced his decision to not run again on Jim Nintzel's Zona Politics show, which airs Sunday mornings but the show is taped earlier.

A press release touting the pending announcement was sent Friday afternoon from a campaign email account by his former congressional spokesman, Mark Kimble, but Barber's former staffers kept mum on what the former congressman had decided.

Barber cited the pressures of fundraising as a reason to not again seek one of Southern Arizona's congressional seats.

"It's not what I went to Congress to do. I won't miss the 25 hours, sometimes 30 hours a week of call time" raising campaign money, he said.

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Calling it a "hard decision," Barber said he was "urged to run."

'I was missing time with my grandkids ... very precious time," said the 69-year-old.

Barber said he would shift his focus to working on raising money for the January 8th Memorial Foundation, which is looking at several options for a design for a museum and monument remembering the 2011 assassination attempt on then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that killed six and wounded 13.

Barber was himself a survivor of the Jan. 8 attack. The former congresswoman's injuries forced her to resign a year later, and her district director entered the race to fill her seat.

McSally's camp didn't respond to a request for comment Friday, but Barber's path to the general election ballot wouldn't be without obstacles.

State Rep. Bruce Wheeler has already formed an exploratory committee, and said Friday that he's staying in the race regardless of Barber's decision to run.

"I have nothing but respect for Ron, but I think it's time to move on," Wheeler said. The former Tucson city councilman said he'll stick out his race. "I do not anticipate getting out."

Another potential candidate whose name has long been floated as a congressional contender said he won't seek the seat.

State Sen. Steve Farley said Friday that Congress is "a horrible mess that I don't want to be a part of ... reading from someone else's script nationally."

"Ultimately, I think I'm more interested in the local and state issues," Farley said.

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Another possible Democratic candidate, Matt Heinz, lost to Barber in the August 2012 primary, after dropping out of the spring primary to clear the way for Barber's win in the special election.

The former state legislator, who has returned to his medical practice after a stint in Washington, D.C., working on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, wouldn't give a firm answer Friday on whether he would, as rumored, take another swing at running for Congress.

"Honestly, Ron should have the right of first refusal," Heinz said via text message Friday. "Perhaps we should see if (the U.S. Supreme Court) has anything to say" about Arizona's redistricting process.

"None of this speculation (about candidates) means anything if we don't know the playing field," Heinz said.

According to several sources at the Legislature, state House Speaker David Gowan is pushing a plan that would redraw the Southeastern Arizona district to make it more Republican — giving the Sierra Vista conservative a shot at Congress himself.

In 2016, Barber would be the frontrunner on the Democratic side if he had decided to run, but other candidates have also been mulling whether to toss their hats into the ring.

The names of state Sen. David Bradley and state Rep. Victoria Steele have been floated as possibilities— as has Nan Walden, who's often rumored as a candidate but who hasn't ever run, despite her Washington experience.

Sources said that both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily's List had canvassed the field for potential female Democratic candidates, but weren't prepared to throw their backing behind anyone.

Regardless of who their candidate is, Democratic operatives have said the party will run hard against McSally.

For her part, the freshman Republican has been raising money for her reelection, bringing in $640,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

In issuing a release touting that figure Saturday, spokesman Patrick Ptak (doing double duty as McSally's campaign and congressional office spokesman) noted that the congresswoman had been in office only 96 days. Next time he might want to do a bit a division. If you do the math on how much she's pulled in daily, it takes eight decimal places to stop repeating the number of the beast.

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3 comments on this story

Apr 13, 2015, 7:47 pm
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Unethical campaigning…How about McSleazy’s stooges shouting Congressman Barber down at the last debate. And speaking of brain dead drones how about the teaparty morons who work in McSleazy’s office what are very unpleasent to anyone who complains about the cashiered colonel’s votes

Apr 13, 2015, 1:26 pm
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*many *shame

Wow, today I’m typing as bad as Tucson votes!

Apr 13, 2015, 1:24 pm
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Finally, some good news! For the record, more often than not Barber voted the way I would have were I in his place. I never took issue with his voting record, I took issue with his campaigning. I could never get past the grossly unethical campaigning, especially against Jesse Kelly. I am overwhelmed by the contradiction of resorting to such dishonest tactics against someone he supposedly didn’t see as a threat.

I also can’t get over how man brain-dead drones we have in this town that voted for Barber just because Queen Gabby told them to. Yeah, that’s not really Barber’s fault, but his being in office shows the same of how devoid of independent thought the Southern Arizona electorate is.

On another note, how does one get a job on an “exploratory committee”? What are the duties? What does it pay?

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Click image to enlarge

Will Seberger/pool/Zuma

Ron Barber giving a victory speech in June 2012.