The House seat of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is up for grabs Tuesday as voters in southeastern Arizona go to the polls in a special election.
Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — a moderate politician who advocated bi-partisan politics in a the hotly conservative Arizona political environment — stepped down from her congressional position in January to focus on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head she sustained a year earlier during an assassination attempt.
The assassination attempt sparked a national debate on bi-partisanship and gun control.
Democrat Ron Barber, a former aide to Giffords who was also injured in the shooting, will run against Republican Jesse Kelly, a former Marine with Tea Party roots who lost narrowly to Giffords in 2010. The winner will serve the remaining six months of Giffords’ term.
Kelly has focused his campaign on Obama’s politics, seeking to avert attention from the Giffords assassination tragedy.
Arizona’s 8th district is Republican-leaning, but the race is close as this is a swing district: Giffords won only by a 4,000 margin in 2010 against Kelly. In a poll released Monday, 53% of voters chose Barber compared to 41% who chose Kelly. Still, experts say the margin is too close to project for certain.
PolicyMic will be covering the Arizona special elections live. Bookmark this page and click “refresh” for the latest updates. (All times in EDT)
LIVE UPDATES Wednesday 9:15 a.m. Voter turnout stood at a strong 47%.
12:45 a.m. Barber Wins
With 66% of polls reporting, Democrat Ron Barber is the projected winner of the Arizona Special Election for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Barber currently holds 53% of the vote to Kelly's 45%.
12:21 a.m. Voter turnout for this election currently estimated at just below 50%.
12:10 a.m. With 50% of polls reporting, Barber still holds a 53% lead over Kelly.
11:45 p.m. Still at 22% reporting, no new results yet.
11:35 p.m. With 22% of polls reporting, Barber still holds a lead, 53% to Kelly's 44%.
11:29 p.m. Still no numbers to report. They're really taking their time tonight ....
Barber still holds the lead.
(10% Precincts Reporting) Barber (D) 52% - Kelly (R) 44%.
11:21 p.m. Gabby Giffords Would Be Appalled at Current State of Arizona Politics:
Editor's Note: We interviewed Arizona voters about the mood in the state ahead of Tuesday's special election for Gabrielle Giffords' Congress seat. Below, Robert Winn gives his responses.
Editorial Board (EB): What is the mood like in Arizona a little bit more than one year after the Giffords' shooting? Does anyone have any faith in politics?
Robert Winn (RW): There is a lot of sympathy for Representative Giffords, which will show up in the election. Faith in parties and party politicians is decreasing all the time in Arizona, which shows up in the fact that for a couple of years, both major parties have been losing voters in Arizona, while independent voters are increasing.
EB: Has Giffords' bipartisan message come to fruition in Arizona, or is it politics as usual?
RW: Arizona has never been a bipartisan state, and independent voters have never been allowed to run for office in Arizona. I once took the independent voter nomination petition signature requirement to federal court myself and a federal judge ruled that a 10,000 signature requirement for independent voters for an office that required 3,000 signatures for a Republican or Democrat was constitutional.
EB: To what extent does immigration play a role in this election?
RW: Immigration is a means for both parties to organize factions. Party leaders in both parties want it to remain unresolved. It has been a factor disadvantageous to independent voters because it was used as a ruse in 2004 to provide an excuse for taking the option to register independent off from the Arizona voter registration form in 2005.
EB: Ron Barber vs. Jesse Kelly: Who are most of your friends more excited about?
RW: I live in a different Congressional district. There are not as many Democrats here. Most of the people I know would probably be in favor of Kelly, but I doubt that he will be elected.
EB: Are there any other local factors that could play a role about how many people vote, like the weather or traffic?
RW: Voter registration has always been abysmally low in Arizona. It was 48% in 1988. That was when the one act of bi-partisanship I have seen happen in Arizona took place. The Arizona legislature passed a bill signed into law by Governor Rose Mofford requiring that deputy registrars in Arizona be recommended by the chairman of a political party. Accordingly, all deputy registrars in Arizona who were registered independent were dismissed on 31 Dec 1988, and informed that they were no longer eligible for that position. The reason why I know about that is because I was one of the deputy registrars who were dismissed.
11:15 p.m. With 11% of polls reporting, Barber has now taken the lead, 53% to 44%
11:06 p.m. Here we go: Finally! With 10% of polls reporting, Kelly currently leads Barber 52% to 45%.
11:05 p.m. An hour after polls closed in Arizona we have a total of 0 votes counted in the 8th district special election.
10:53 p.m. While We Wait, here's a great analysis on gun legislation from Sarah Swong: Gabby Giffords Arizona Election Should Be a Reminder For Stricter Gun Controls in the U.S.
Voters are ready for Tuesday night’s special election for the seat of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in January 2011. She stepped down earlier this year to commit herself to recovery.
While sympathy for victims of the Tuscon, Ariz.,shooting should not decide the vote on Tuesday night, the public seems to have forgotten or ignored why Giffords’ seat is vacant in the first place — a gun in the arms of a disturbed citizen. The special election should remind us that guns lead to more violence and for practical reasons should not be so widely circulated. So we should regulate access to guns and address the socioeconomic gap in gun-violent neighborhoods through a national policy.
Guns don’t always cause violence, but they tend to make environments more unsafe. Having a firearm at home increases the risk of a violent death, whether homicide or suicide. Indeed, we kill more people by firearms than any other developed nation. In 2010, firearms caused 8,775 of 12,996 murders in the U.S. but well under 100 out of 600 murders in the United Kingdom. The correlation between greater gun access and greater incidents of violence is hard to write off.
There’s also no practical reason for guns anymore. The Founding Fathers wanted a citizen army because they had been oppressed by a professional army, but today things have changed. We no longer need personal firearms to protect ourselves (unless you’re going rogue in a totalitarian police state, which is hard to overthrow even with a gun), and in normal day-to-day life they cause more death than safety. Moreover, the Second Amendment doesn’t protect “the right to bear arms” unconditionally — it guarantees the right for a “well-regulated militia,” emphasis on well-regulated and militia. Neither of these terms mean unrestricted private sales. Finally, health care costs for gun violence are estimated to be $100 billion annually, paid by taxpayers.
Giffords’ case is not even the norm. Despite the media’s focus on suburban white middle-class victims, most gun violence affects minority kids of color. In New York City in 2008, 61% of homicide victims were African American and 27% were Latino in impoverished neighborhoods;firearms were involved in 70% of these deaths. Inner-city communities need not only regulation, but also socioeconomic support.
The president and Congress must both regulate and address socioeconomic factors in gun violence. To improve regulation, background checks should happen at gun shows and other “private sale” locations. Gun dealers and law enforcement need better access to criminal and mental health records, and authorities in general need to keep gun purchase records. Finally, gun makers need incentives to create child-proof or personalized guns that shoot only when the owner intends it to fire. To address the complex issues of poverty, they need to embrace job creation and training, mentorship, and social services in these dangerous neighborhoods.
It’s unfortunate that the fierce gun lobby makes navigating the politics much more difficult and that Obama is unlikely to take a stand on such a politically divisive issue, as otherwise simple regulatory steps would reduce the violence in inner-city neighborhoods and beyond.
As Giffords reminds us, our nation seriously needs to address our addiction to guns. We need to let go of them. Guns are designed to kill, and only to kill. Guns may give us a sense of security, but actually burden us with more violence, higher taxes, and more partisanship.
10:45 p.m. 45 minutes after the polls closed in Arizona and still no results in the AZ 8 special House election
10:25 p.m. Still no election results, c'mon election results.
10:15 p.m. Still no election results reported.
10:10 p.m. Video of Giffords voting:
10:05 p.m. Race tighter than we think: From ABC News: While a new (non-airworthy) poll out Monday showed Barber ahead of Kelly by 12 points, insiders on both sides say their polling shows the race much tighter. Many of those closest to the contest give Barber a narrow advantage.
A win by Barber would be more than just a victory for the extended “Giffords family,” it would be a psychological boost for a White House that has endured a rough couple of weeks. After all, this is not a slam dunk Democratic district. McCain won this district in 2008, Bush carried it in 2004, and Republicans have a significant registration advantage here as well.
A Kelly win would provide another example of a Republican enthusiasm advantage over Democrats – i.e. Wisconsin recall. Furthermore, it would undercut one the Democrats’ main arguments for the fall campaign: that GOP support of Social Security and Medicare reform (like the Ryan budget) is politically toxic. Outside groups supporting Barber have pummeled Kelly with his own words on these entitlement programs. As the Arizona Daily Star reported: “Barber and Democrats remind voters daily that two years ago Kelly said he wanted to privatize and phase out Social Security and eliminate Medicare. They slam his pledge this go-round to protect the programs as a disingenuous trick.”
10:01 p.m. FYI, polls close on the Arizona special election at 10pm ET.
10 p.m. A poll released Monday from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling showed Barber (who is backed by Giffords) asserting a double-digit lead over Kelly.
A Barber win would be the result in large part of Democratic efforts to define Kelly early on as being against Medicare and Social Security in the 11th-oldest district in the country. In their ads, Democrats ran footage and quotes of Kelly talking about getting rid of the entitlement programs.
9:32 p.m. Conservative groups and the national Republican Party spent about $1.4 million on Kelly’s behalf, while the Democratic Party and allied groups spent about $900,000 for Barber.
8:55 p.m. Gaby Giffords votes for Ron Barber:
4:15 p.m. From our friends in Arizona:
12 p.m. In preparation for tonight's vote, here are a few things to know about Giffords and the Arizona election:
1) Giffords is important
The former congresswoman is in the minds of Arizonans who are very consciously voting for “Gabby’s seat.” They love their former congresswoman, who has endorsed Barber -- a sympathetic figure also injured in the shooting. The unique events surrounding the election have made for a more civil campaign that has toned down partisan punches.
2) Giffords is not not everything
Giffords influences general sentiment and sympathy for Barber, but the race is still close and focused on more than just Giffords. The public likely sees the assassination attempt as an incidental tragedy rather than indicative of a systemic problem. Indeed, neither candidate has focused on the shooting in their campaigns. National politicians who had vowed to address gun control have failed to make any reforms.
3) It’s the economy
While immigration dominated the close election in 2010, the economy and job creation tops this year’s agenda for voters. Kelly would institute lower taxes and more energy production to improve the economy. He would also reduce federal regulations and environmental protections to spur oil and gas drilling. Barber has spoken about growing the solar industry and cutting taxes for the middle class only; he wants the wealthy to “pay their fair share.”
4) Immigration still matters
Immigration is still a controversial issue in the district. Kelly has vowed to build a double-layer fence along the district's border with Mexico. Barber doubts that the fence would be effective, but rather calls for more manpower, horse patrols, and drones.
5) For Democrats, a Barber win would validate their campaign strategy
Democrats have called attention to GOP runner Jesse Kelly’s past statements about overhauling Medicare and Social Security. Early and frequently in the campaign, the Democrats released clips of Kelly criticizing the programs and desiring their overhaul. In a region with a growing population of retirees, focusing on social services and using Kelly’s own statements against him worked in 2010 for Giffords and seems to be working now.
6) For Republicans, a Kelly win would be a referendum on the Democrats
The GOP strategy has been to link Barber to the national Democratic image; namely Obama, and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on issues such as health care policy and the economy. Barber has tried to distance himself from the national leaders, but a Republican win would signal voters’ frustration with the president and national policy.
7) Whatever happens, it won't decide the House majority
Outside sources have funded up to $2 million of the campaign in hopes of influencing the House majority. Republicans now hold a 240-192 advantage with three vacancies, including Giffords' seat. A Democrat lost would make it harder to win the 25 seats needed for a blue majority. But one election, especially an unusual case such as tonight’s, cannot be a litmus test for every other state.