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CD8 special election

Barber talks Social Security to seniors

Democrat makes first stump stop since Kelly's GOP primary win

  • Democratic CD8 candidate Ron Barber speaks to about 30 people at a retirement home in Tucson's Northwest Side on Thursday.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comDemocratic CD8 candidate Ron Barber speaks to about 30 people at a retirement home in Tucson's Northwest Side on Thursday.
  • William Metcalf listens to Barber.
    Will Seberger/Tucson SentinelWilliam Metcalf listens to Barber.
  • Barber speaks to the press.
    Will Seberger/Tucson SentinelBarber speaks to the press.

Ron Barber, the Democratic candidate in the CD8 special election, spooled up his campaign on Thursday in his first stump appearance after Jesse Kelly won Tuesday night's GOP primary.

In front of a crowd of about 30 at a retirement home on the Northwest Side, the former Giffords staffer spoke of Social Security, border security and class security as keys to his campaign, and repeated his call for civility and respect in the election contest.

Barber may not be casting slings and arrows from the lectern, but in an email — signed by Barber — sent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday morning, the Dem hopeful went after Kelly's positions on Social Security, the minimum wage and Medicare. Barber didn't offer his own stance on those issues in the email. The only position taken by Barber's camp was that his campaign needs more money — it called for gifts of $3 or more to fund a grassroots campaign against Kelly.

Over the course of his speech, Barber repeatedly said that he is not seeking to "replace" former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped down in January, but to carry on constituent services and advance his own political agenda.

"This is not Gabby's seat. This is not my seat. This is the people's seat," Barber said.

But the same DCCC email, sent one hour before Barber's speech, said "We simply can't let Jesse Kelly finish Gabby's term in Congress."

Barber also reminded the crowd that the shooting that eventually prompted this special election happened "not far from here." Barber himself was shot twice in the Jan. 8, 2011 attack that killed six and wounded 13.

Barber echoed the theme that Giffords used to challenge — and narrowly beat — Kelly in 2010: that the Republican candidate, who was backed by the Tea Party, wants to end Social Security and Medicare.

Barber's campaign website, which had been a simple splash page until the GOP primary result was known, now boasts a six-page "Issues" section that lays out policy differences with his opponent without mentioning him.

Over the 45-minute presentation Thursday, Barber told the crowd that he wants to preserve Social Security as a means of protecting senior citizens — many of whom depend on it as their sole income in retirement.

According to the Social Security administration, the average monthly payout for a benefits-eligible retiree is $1,230 in early 2012, or $14,760 per year. The federal poverty line for a household of two people in 2011 was $14,710, and $10,890 for an individual, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Barber said that both Social Security and Medicare need overhauls, but said that the privatization of Social Security was not a good option.

"People can't rely on the stock market for their retirement," Barber said, citing the risks of investing and the stock market crash "not so many months ago."

He also said that while he disagrees in part with the now-embattled Affordable Health Care Act, he supports most of the bill — especially COBRA options for dependents into their mid-20s and no limits on lifetime payouts.

Barber also said he favors a "boots-on-the-ground" approach to border security, although he said he would prefer the boots worn by U.S. Border Patrol agents over the National Guard. He called for more forward operating bases, more horse patrols and mobile surveillance to keep illegal entrants, including cartels, out of the country.

In spite of a Latin American movement in recent months to decriminalize the production and sale of drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, as a means of controlling violence and weakening cartels, Barber said "that's not what I'm about."

Barber said if he's elected he would push for legislation once supported by Giffords that makes it harder to move money for drugs south of the border.

Kelly has also called for more people on the border, as well as a double border wall. Both camps are quick to talk about ranchers on the border living in fear of cartels and human traffickers, citing the Krentz murder nearly two years ago as evidence of escalating violence in the region.

The special election is on June 12, early voting begins May 17. Both Barber and Kelly are also running for the newly created CD2 seat this fall.

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