As early ballots were counted and GOP candidate Jesse Kelly lost his early lead in the special Congressional District 8 race, the Republican said the voters have spoken and he respects that.
Kelly conceded earlier Tuesday night when Democrat Ron Barber led by more than 7 points.
Barber was elected to complete former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ term, which is about six months. Giffords resigned in January in order to focus on recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. Barber was also injured in the Jan. 8 shooting last year.
Barber is expected to head to Washington as early as next week.
After the results were clear, Barber said, “Life takes unexpected turns, but here we are. I never thought I would run for office, but in some ways, being here makes sense to me because I’m exactly where I’ve always been, rooted here, right here in Southern Arizona.”
With 86.36 percent of the ballots counted, Barber led the race with 98,590 votes, garnering 52.29 percent of the vote. Kelly trailed Barber with 84,995 votes, or 45.08 percent of the vote.
In a concession speech, Kelly said, “Statistically it’s his. We executed the plan we wanted and the voters of Arizona have chosen something different. We are blessed by God to live in a country where the voters get exactly what they want. And so they have spoken here, and we respect them for it.”
After the results were clear, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions released a statement.
"Special elections are unique, and the tragic turn of events that led to this one are no exception. No one wanted this election to happen, or to see Gabrielle Giffords step down from Congress, but Jesse ran a campaign focused on pro-growth policies that will lead to less government and a strong and vibrant economy.
"It is clear that Ron Barber knew that voters in this district would never accept his true positions on President Obama's agenda which have made a bad economy worse in this state. That explains why he did his best to conceal his support for so much of that agenda. Barber will not have that advantage in November when he will be on the ballot with President Obama, nor will any of his House Democrat colleagues."
Barber and Kelly could potentially face each other again in the August election. Under the state’s redistricting, CD8 will become Congressional District 2, requiring another election this year.
Kelly is expected to announce whether or not he will be seeking the CD2 seat in the coming days.