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Kirkpatrick hires ex-congressman Barber to run district office

The CD 2 congressional office will soon feature a familiar face: incoming U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has hired Ron Barber, the former congressman who was previously the district director for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as a top aide.

Barber will serve as Kirkpatrick's district director when she is sworn in in January.

Voters sent Barber to Congress in a 2012 special election after Giffords resigned in the wake of the Jan. 8, 2011, attack that saw both shot.

Barber — who was shot in the face and leg by the gunman who shot the congresswoman point-blank in the head — was reelected in November 2012, but lost to U.S. Rep. Martha McSally by just 167 votes in 2014.

With McSally giving up her seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Kirkpatrick — a former three-term congresswoman from CD 1 — took on Republican candidate Lea Marquez Peterson this year, and earned an easy win.

The incoming Democratic representative said she asked Barber to join her staff because "no one knows Southern Arizona better than him. There's no one who loves Tucson and Cochise County more than Ron."

"He is one of my top advisors, and I’m thrilled that he and Nancy are willing to step back into the arena to serve the people of Southern Arizona," Kirkpatrick said in a news release.

The move is an unusual one, putting the former elected official into a staff post. District directors for congressional offices manage constituent service efforts and serve as policy advisors.

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"Ann securing Ron for this top position shows that she is putting a huge emphasis on hiring a strong and accessible district staff focused on providing superior constituent services," said campaign spokeswoman Abigail O'Brien.

"I have enjoyed my retirement which has given me opportunities to serve on local non-profit boards and spend a lot more time with Nancy, our daughters, sons-in-law and our five grandchildren," said Barber. "My decision to accept Ann's invitation to be her district director will allow me to assist her and to serve the people of AZ02 once again. Southern Arizonans have been very supportive of my family and me all our lives, particularly since the tragedy on January 8, 2011. I am excited to return that support to them. The district staff and I will work hard to listen to and meet the needs of our community. Ann will be a strong representative for Southern Arizona and her constituents will appreciate her accessibility and dedication to them. I am honored to lead her district staff."

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Barber, right, with Kirkpatrick and Pima County Democratic Chairwoman Jo Holt, left, on election night.