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Giffords’ successor trailing in Arizona House race

PHOENIX — The hand-picked successor to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
trailed a Republican political novice by a few hundred votes Wednesday in one of
two razor-thin congressional races in Arizona that could drag on for several
days as the final ballots are tallied.

Another close contest was decided Wednesday when Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick was
declared the winner of the sprawling 1st district over former GOP lawmaker
Jonathan Paton.

Rep. Ron Barber, who was wounded at the January 2011 shooting in Tucson that
forced Giffords to resign, said he still believed outstanding ballots could tilt
the race in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District back in his favor. But
if they don’t, he respects the voters’ decision.

“I’m perfectly at ease and at peace with the voters’ decision about who they
send to Congress,” Barber told The Associated Press. “And if it’s not me, then
I wish my opponent, if she’s our new member, every success because we have to
get the job done. “

Retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally seemingly came out of nowhere to take
the lead in the race late Tuesday. Barber won the early voting, while McSally
dominated on Election Day.

The first woman to fly in combat and to command a fighter squadron, McSally
captivated audiences looking for leadership in the moderate district that had
twice rejected an ultra-conservative tea party Republican, Jesse Kelly.

McSally’s personal narrative, including suing the Defense Department because it
required her to wear a head scarf while based in Saudi Arabia, resonated with
independents and women, although Democrats called her out for her stands on
social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

McSally said she believes voters supported Barber in the June special election
because he was wounded with Giffords and she asked him to fill out her unexpired
term. But Tuesday’s race was different.

“I think those factors certainly were important in the last race, whereas this
race was more about who’s the right person, in their own right, to represent the
district,” McSally said.

Paton said he would not comment on Kirkpatrick’s victory until all the
outstanding votes were counted in the race that had been considered a tossup and
featured millions of dollars in ad spending.

“The voters in CD1 have spoken and I just have to tell you I feel humbled and
honored to serve them again and it’s time to get to work,” Kirkpatrick said.

The district encompasses much of northern and eastern Arizona, rural areas
south of Phoenix and the Navajo Nation.

Kirkpatrick represented the district for one term before being ousted by a
conservative Republican in 2010, Paul Gosar. After redistricting made the
district less conservative, Gosar moved to northwestern Arizona’s 4th district
and won election on Tuesday.

The Phoenix area’s 9th district was a virtual tie Wednesday between former
Democratic state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker, a former
mayor of the upscale Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley.

The state earned a ninth seat after the 2010 Census and was filling it for the
first time on Tuesday.

Barber said he’s heading back to Washington next week to help address looming
federal issues like the expiring Bush tax cuts, the farm bill and automatic
spending cuts.

“There’s plenty to do,” he said.

For Barber, the cliffhanger 2nd district race is one that he would not have
imagined just two years ago.

“I’ve got so much to be grateful for,” Barber told the AP. “I really have
got this wonderful family who have supported me over the last two years in
what’s been one of the most surreal experiences of my life, you know.”

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