Democrat Ron Barber has a solid lead in the race to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
Barber leads Republican Jesse Kelly 53 percent to 41 percent, with 4 percent supporting Green Party candidate Charlie Manolakis. 2 percent are undecided.
The seat in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District became open after the resignation of Giffords, who was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt on January 8, 2011. Giffords was shot in the head, and has undergone extensive surgery, hospitalization, and physical and occupational therapy in her ongoing recovery. She returned to the House on August 1, 2011 to cast a vote for the debt ceiling increase but did not resume her role full-time. Giffords resigned her seat on January 25, 2012, saying that her continued rehabilitation required her full attention, and that she could not therefore act as a representative for her district.
Barber worked as Giffords’ district aide from 2007 until her resignation. He has also run a small business and worked with the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities. Kelly is a veteran of the Iraq War who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010. Kelly’s campaign came under scrutiny in the wake of the Giffords shooting, especially his use of gun imagery in his campaign literature.
The 8th District voted for John McCain by a 6-point margin in 2008, but the PPP poll showed the likely voters for the special election favored Obama in that election by the same margin. The poll indicates that Democrats are strongly motivated to hold on to Giffords’ seat, given the circumstances that forced her out of it.
“Democrats are likely to win this race comfortably tomorrow,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, in a statement. “But the unusual circumstances of the contest make its relevance to any other contest later this year pretty limited. It’s not often you have a special election to replace an incumbent who resigned with a 67% favorability rating.”
The special election, which will be held on June 12, 2012, will determine the candidate who will serve out the balance of Giffords’ term. Most of the 8th district will become part of the 2nd District in the fall; both Barber and Kelly are candidates for the 2nd District seat.
The poll was taken June 9-10, 2012, and has a margin of error of ±3.0 percent.
AP Photo of Gabby Giffords and Ron Barber by Matt York, Pool, File
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