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CD 8: BARBER'S SHOP?

The race to complete Gabrielle Giffords' term is one of those rapidly developing stories that's easier to cover online at The Range, our daily dispatch, but we'll do our best to round up the news as it stands on Tuesday morning, and hope it hasn't changed too much by the time our dead-tree edition hits the streets.

You'll still want to check daily.tucsonweekly.com to get the latest—but, hey, you Skinny readers don't need to be told the best place to find the latest local political news online, do you?

As our print deadline closes in, it appears likely that Ron Barber, who has served as the district director for Giffords' congressional office since her election in 2006, will enter the race to finish out her term in Congressional District 8.

"I would be shocked if we didn't hear an announcement soon that Barber is running for the interim position," Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers told us earlier this week, adding that a Giffords endorsement would probably come along with the announcement.

Barber, 66, who was nearly killed after being shot twice on Jan. 8, is thought to be offering himself up as a caretaker for the remainder of Giffords' term, but multiple sources tell us he will not run for the new Congressional District 2 later this year.

Barber's entry will likely clear the Democratic field, with aspiring candidates now free to build campaigns to battle it out in the Democratic primary for that new CD 2 seat.

If that's how it plays out, Barber will face the winner of the April 17 GOP primary. Three Republicans—state Sen. Frank Antenori, 2010 GOP CD 8 nominee Jesse Kelly and businessman/sports-broadcaster/rugby-coach Dave Sitton—have already announced bids in that contest, and we hear that a fourth candidate, political newcomer Martha McSally, is likely to get into the race by the end of the week. (More on that later.)

Barber's entry complicates things for the GOP candidates: All but one of them will lose in the primary, and the winner will have spent plenty of campaign funds before pivoting to face Barber, who would have Giffords' backing and an enormous amount of goodwill among voters.

After the special election is decided on June 12, the Republican candidates will then have to decide whether to mount new campaigns for the regular election against Democratic candidates who have had the opportunity to build their campaign organizations in the new Congressional District 2, which covers much of the same territory as the current CD 8, but does not include GOP-heavy precincts in Marana, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke.


SPEAKING OF THE CD 8 REPUBLICANS ...

Jesse Kelly made his entry last week into the CD 8 special election to fill the open seat left by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' resignation.

"We need lower taxes, a strong economy and more jobs," Kelly said in a meeting with reporters.

Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, had been planning to announce he was again running more than a year ago, but after the Jan. 8 shooting rampage, he dropped out of the political spotlight. In recent months, the former Marine has been spending much of his time in San Antonio, Texas, where his family's construction business, Don Kelly Construction, has won a contract for part of a major public-works project.

Kelly, a political rookie who adopted a Tea Party approach to government that included getting rid of most of the federal government outside of the Defense Department—and public-works spending that benefits companies like Don Kelly Construction—said last week that he wanted to replace all income and payroll taxes with a single 10 percent flat tax on all Americans.

Kelly said he expected to run a "positive campaign" in the primary.

"The campaign is going to be about each candidate representing themselves," Kelly said. "I don't anticipate any kind of negative campaign."

But state Sen. Frank Antenori has already been taking shots at Kelly for dropping out of Southern Arizona politics in the wake of the Jan. 8 shootings.

"What's really astonishing is that (Kelly) had no intentions of running in the normal election, and he had already started cutting staff away, and all of a sudden, Mr. Opportunity is back in town," Antenori complained when Kelly first resurfaced.

The former Green Beret said he has been in the thick of political battles over redistricting and a city of Tucson election, while Kelly was nowhere to be found.

"We went through a period of time in the state when there were a lot of political battles," Antenori said. "Some of us stayed to fight those battles and work for the conservative cause in the party, and some of us didn't. When the going gets tough, Jesse Kelly gets going."

When asked to respond to Antenori's attack, Kelly offered up the defense that his job with the family construction business requires him to travel.

"My wife and I are raising our two boys right here in Southern Arizona," said Kelly, who declined to explain where his family has actually been living over the last year.

We had thought the field would be complete with the entrance of Kelly and Dave Sitton, but we're hearing more buzz about the possible candidacy of Martha McSally, a former Air Force pilot.

McSally has an impressive resume: An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot, she was the first American woman to fly in combat, and was the commander of the 354th Fighter Squadron here at Davis-Monthan. She holds a master's degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and had a high-profile role in suing the Department of Defense over rules that required her to wear body-covering garb while traveling off-base in Saudi Arabia.

There are plenty of hurdles for a McSally campaign to overcome. She doesn't have a household name. Signatures for the race are due by Feb. 27. Money will be hard to raise. (We hear Sitton is doing well in that department, while Antenori is struggling.)

On the other hand, getting into a race like this could do wonders for her name ID, and maybe even position her strategically for the regular election later this year.


GOING AFTER GRIJALVA

David Crowe Robles, a local defense contractor, is announcing plans to take on Congressman Raúl Grijalva in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the new Congressional District 3.

Crowe Robles, who had been known as just David Crowe, appears to be getting in touch with his Hispanic roots by adopting his mother's maiden name as part of his new political identity. That political identity seems a bit in flux, given that he was a Republican until he started flirting with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate last year (before Richard Carmona got into that race).

In 2010, Crowe backed Grijalva's Republican opponent, Ruth McClung, saying in a press release: "We have people in Washington, D.C., who create problems, (and) others who see them, but can do nothing. There are very few politicians with science or technical degrees. Ruth McClung has the background, training and practical experience to actually find solutions and solve problems."

(BTW, we got an email this week from McClung, who informed supporters that she's not climbing into the political ring in 2012.)

Crowe—or Crowe Robles—isn't the only Democrat who wants a piece of Grijalva's hide. Former state lawmaker Amanda Aguirre of Yuma is also assembling a campaign.

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