Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a public appearance on behalf of Democratic Congressional District 8 candidate Ron Barber on Saturday at the Rialto Theater. The duo, along with Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, promoted a “Get Out the Vote” concert, which featured Kevin Pakulis, Salvador Duran, Sergio Mendoza y La Orkest, and special appearances from Joey Burns and Jacob Valenzuela of the band Calexico.
The free show was designed to generate and reward volunteers, and build voter enthusiasm leading into the final days of the District 8 special election, which drew to a close yesterday.
The public appearance was the first for Giffords since announcing her resignation on Jan. 25 to focus on her recovery following a gunshot wound to the head at a congressional event last year.
Barber, who at the time was serving as Giffords’ district director, was also among those wounded in the shooting spree that took six lives.
Barber credited his family and volunteers for their support throughout the race.
“I wouldn’t be running if it weren’t for them and their support, particularly over the last year and a half,” he said. “All of this community has been so fantastic.”
Tucson Mayor Jonathon Rothschild made an appearance at the concert, voicing his support for Barber.
“We’ve got three days to win an incredibly important race,” he said. “The entire country is watching this race for Gabby’s seat - the difference between a Ron Barber and a Jesse Kelly.”
Barber’s campaign manager Jen Cox summed up the results from the Get Out the Vote concert.
“Today, you knocked on 4,664 doors and made 21,773 phone calls,” she said. Cox also recognized the additional 211 volunteers who signed up on Saturday.
The crowd erupted as Kelly led Giffords onto the stage toward the latter part of the night. Kelly spoke on her behalf, first talking about her decision to resign earlier this year.
“It was a very difficult decision. You know she worked incredibly hard to first be elected to Congress and then to serve. It was her lifelong dream, but she knew that at that point it made sense for her to step down,” he said.
Kelly said the Congressional race is important not only politically, but also sentimentally for his wife.
“This is a little about closure,” he said. “This is closure on Gabby’s career in Congress. It wasn’t when she resigned in January. I really truly believe that it is this coming Tuesday.”
Giffords spoke briefly to express her gratitude to the audience.
“Thank you for your support,” she said. “Thank you very much.” Giffords and Barber made another appearance together on Monday at the Democratic Campaign Office, 200 W. Magee Road.
Barber supporters packed the office as he reemphasized the importance of collecting votes in the final days of the campaign.
“With your help, we are going to prevail, we are going to win this special election, and you’re going to send me to Congress,” he said. “We’re at the finish line now.”
The winner of the special election will complete the six months remaining in Giffords’ term. As a result of redistricting, the candidates will likely face each other once again in the District 2 race in August.