The Tucson Weekly Endorsement: Ron Barber

Voters should pick trusted public servant Ron Barber to complete Gabrielle Giffords' term

There's a reason that Republicans who have worked with Democrat Ron Barber are stepping across party lines to support him.

It's because those Republicans—former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, homebuilder John Wesley Miller, former state lawmaker Pete Hershberger, former SAHBA lobbyist Alex Jacome, former president of the 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee Tim Amalong, and many others—have worked with Barber in the past. So they know from personal experience that he's the kind of guy who will work with other people to make Southern Arizona a better place, regardless of political ideology.

And that's why we're urging you to vote for Ron Barber in the June 12 special election to complete Gabrielle Giffords' congressional term.

Barber has deep roots in Southern Arizona. He has lived here since the 1960s, graduating from Rincon High School. He raised his family here. He built a career as head of the Southern Arizona branch of the state's Division of Developmental Disabilities, learning how to use the levers of government to help the most vulnerable in our community. He also successfully moved people out of state-run institutions and into the community, where they could live better lives.

With his wife, Nancy, he ran Toy Traders/Stork's Nest for more than two decades and learned about the challenges facing small businesses.

In 2006, Barber was inspired to leave his job with the state to help Giffords get elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After she won that race, he headed her Southern Arizona office.

In that role, Barber gained the experience that would make him an excellent congressman. He helped build a staff that, by all accounts, reached across all sectors of the community to serve the people of Southern Arizona.

On Jan. 8, 2011, he was among those who were victims of a madman's rampage. But even after taking two bullets and nearly losing his life, Barber demonstrated his resilience. His first inclination was to find a way to make some good come out of a terrible event. As he recovered in the intensive care unit, he came up with the idea to find a way to raise money to help kids who are bullied, and young people who suffer from mental illness.

Barber created the nonprofit Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding. Just about two months after the shootings, he brought an array of rock stars to Tucson for a fundraising concert—and ended up onstage himself, alongside his family, to sing "Teach Your Children" with the likes of Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper, David Crosby and Graham Nash.

Ron Barber has a spine of steel.

Now Barber is stepping up to serve one more time. At the behest of Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, he's taking on the challenge of representing Southern Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barber's opponent, Republican Jesse Kelly, is a Tea Party extremist. As we've noted in these pages, Kelly will tell voters almost anything to get elected. We won't rehash it all here, but his radical views on getting rid of the minimum wage and all corporate taxes, eliminating loans for college students, banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency are far out of step with Southern Arizona voters. And we've given up trying to figure out what his plans are for fixing Social Security and Medicare, since in the last few weeks, he's gone from insisting the programs must be privatized to swearing he would never allow them to be phased out.

And don't even get us started on his fantasies about how the United States has more oil than Saudi Arabia—an assertion so absurd that one of his fellow GOP primary candidates, Martha McSally, took the brave step of telling him he was dead wrong about that.

Jesse Kelly is full of nonsense—and in the three years we've seen him on the campaign trail, he's done nothing to persuade us that he cares one whit about helping people in Southern Arizona.

It's little wonder that Daniel Scarpinato, the National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman who is now running an expensive negative campaign against Barber, said that in 2010, Kelly ran "one of the most negative, slanderous campaigns that we've seen in Arizona probably in decades."

Southern Arizona voters have a stark choice in front of them. For us, it's an easy choice to make.

Vote for Ron Barber for Congress.

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