Former Gabrielle Giffords aide Ron Barber wins Arizona election

 

A US congressional aide who almost lost his life in the Arizona
shooting rampage that wounded former representative Gabrielle Giffords
has won a special election to fill her seat.

Appearing with Ms Giffords at a Tucson hotel after his victory last night, Democrat Ron Barber told supporters: "Life takes unexpected turns and here we are, thanks to you."

Ms Giffords hugged him and kissed his forehead.

Mr Barber defeated Republican Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to Ms Giffords in 2010 in a competitive district that Republicans have won in the last two presidential elections.

Ms Giffords has made few public appearances since resigning her House seat in January to focus on her recovery, but she returned to Tucson during the campaign's final days to help her former district director.

She was badly wounded last year during a shooting rampage in a Tucson car park that killed six people and wounded 13.

Republicans, sensing a chance to capture the congressional seat, sought to make the special election a referendum on President Barack Obama and his handling of the economy. They argued that Mr Barber would fall in line behind the White House.

Democrats played to the senior vote by contending that Mr Kelly would not protect Medicare, the US government healthcare programme for the elderly, and social security retirement benefits.

Mr Barber won 52% of the vote, while Kelly had 46%.

Democratic officials were quick to argue that the victory sets the stage for them to win back control of the House of Representatives. Democrats need big gains in the November election to grab the House majority from the Republicans, who now hold a 240-192 advantage with three vacancies, including Ms Giffords' seat.

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