Early ballots in the Southern Arizona special election for Congressional District 8 will be sent out this week, with the General Election date just under a month away.
Democrat Ron Barber faces Republican Jesse Kelly in the race to replace Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords resigned in January to focus on recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.
Kelly, who lost to Giffords in 2010 by 4,000 votes, said in the Primary Election where he defeated three GOP opponents that an election is won and lost in early voting.
In the Primary Election, 71 percent of the votes cast were through early ballots. Kelly won over 38 percent of those votes, defeating Sen. Frank Antenori, Martha McSally and Dave Sitton.
While voters will start getting ballots this week, Barber and Kelly will square off in two scheduled events.
The first will be a forum on Wednesday, May 16. The forum will air on KUAT Channel 6. The program will be pre-taped, and is not open to the public.
The second event is open to the public. On Wednesday, May 23, Barber and Kelly will face off in a debate. The debate, sponsored by the Arizona Daily Star, will be held at the Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road. The event, which begins at 7 p.m., will be held in the JCC ballroom. With seating available for up to 500 people, it is a first come, first serve event.
As the candidates are slated to go head-to-head, issues such as Medicare, social security and the recent controversy surrounding women will likely show major differences between the two candidates.
Kelly has been hitting the campaign trial in recent weeks, garnering support from both seniors and women.
On May 3, Kelly’s campaign keyed in on support from senior citizens, with a coalition of seniors coming together to officially announce their support.
Kelly’s grandfather, Hank Allgyer, serves as honorary chairman of the Seniors for Kelly organization.
“My grandson Jesse understands that seniors count on Social Security and Medicare, and I know we can trust him to preserve these programs and prevent them from going bankrupt,” said Allgyer, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. “Jesse has pledged to repeal ObamaCare because it cuts $500 billion from Medicare and puts bureaucrats in charge of our healthcare.”
Barber’s camp has been busy getting used to Kelly’s new stance on Medicare and Social Security. In many of the commercials hitting the airwaves on Barber’s behalf, the Democrats argue that just two years ago Kelly was against both Medicare and Social Security.
Barber said, “I am running for Congress because our seniors deserve someone who will fight for them. Unfortunately, Jesse Kelly has said time and again that he would ‘phase out,’ ‘eliminate,’ or ‘privatize’ Medicare and Social Security.”
A coalition of Southern Arizona Women also came together in support of Kelly on May 11.
Former State Sen. Toni Hellon will serve as the honorary co-chair of the Women for Kelly organization.
“As our congressman, Jesse Kelly will listen to the people of Southern Arizona and work with us to create jobs and make this community the best it can be,” Hellon said. “Jesse has the energy and ideas to help rebuild our economy and create jobs.”
In the meantime, Barber has garnered support from both parties, with several Republican candidates endorsing the former Giffords aide.
On May 1, former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup endorsed Barber.
“Ron has never approached his work as a partisan Democrat,” said Walkup. “He’s always approached it as a Tucsonan, ready to do whatever work is necessary to help Tucson and Southern Arizona. As co-chair of his campaign, I know that when he is in Congress, he’ll continue to work with all Southern Arizonans, and with other members of Congress regardless of their party, to ensure that the policies we need are in place.”
Barber has also been endorsed by Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik.
“The solutions to our Nation’s problems will not be found in continuing to elect people who cannot see beyond party labels,” he said. “In Ron, I see person who will look at issues from multiple perspectives before landing on a final solution. That’s how we create good public policy. That’s what Ron is committed to, and that’s the reason I’m committed to supporting his candidacy.
While residents of Oro Valley and Marana will vote in the special CD8 election, the winning candidate will only serve the area for six months, finishing up Giffords’ term.
In November, CD8 will become Congressional District 2 under the new redistricting boundaries.
Marana and Oro Valley will become Congressional District 1 next year. Republican Jonathan Paton will likely face Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in the race.
People already on the permanent early voting list who live within CD8 will automatically receive early ballots.
Voters wanting to cast a ballot early can still call the Pima County Recorder’s Office at 724-4330 and request them.
The final day to register to vote in the special CD8 election was May 14. The General Election will be held on June 12.