After a year of near-constant campaigning in Southeastern Arizona, the flood of money and political ads has mostly stopped, prompting more than one sigh of relief.

Ron Barber, a Democrat, won the race to represent Congressional District 2 last month by a slim 2,454 votes.

He was re-elected to a two-year term after having easily won a June special election to finish out the term of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery.

Barber raised about $2.7 million this year, about twice what his Republican challenger in the general election, Martha McSally, brought in over the same period, though her fundraising picked up midyear.

Federal Election Commission reports show that in the 2 1/2 weeks before Election Day, McSally's campaign raised almost double what Barber's did.

Her fundraising since July began trailed Barber's by about $125,000, the reports showed.

The big money didn't go to the candidates' campaigns, however. Close to $3 million washed into the race from outside political groups, which are forbidden to coordinate with candidates.

The cascade of money showed up mostly in a seemingly endless flow of negative ads.

McSally benefited most from the outside money, with a 2-to-1 advantage.

Still, Barber pulled through in votes, nosing further and further ahead as Pima County's provisional ballots were tallied. He claimed victory after 11 days of suspense.

For her part, McSally sees the closeness of the race and her fundraising performance as a feat.

"We were saying it was going to be close from the beginning, but people didn't believe us," the retired Air Force colonel said. "I feel very proud of what my team accomplished in 147 days."

She notes that she was up against a Democratic incumbent in an election cycle broadly favoring Democrats, campaigning in a redrawn district that lost some of its Republican registration edge, and that turnout in Cochise County, which does favor Republicans, was relatively low.

Only 62 percent of Cochise County voters cast a ballot, compared to 78 percent in more Democratic-leaning Pima County.

The registration breakdown in the new district was 35 percent Republicans, 34 percent Democrats and 31 percent independents.

The fundraising, too, looked rough at first for McSally, who ran in the special election primary but lost to Jesse Kelly, who in turn lost to Barber.

As a novice candidate, she wasn't already plugged into the donor network. And at first, she found it disheartening that it was such a integral part of spreading her message.

But that didn't last long.

"I thought, 'OK, this is part of the mission,' " she said. "I am asking people to invest in their future and their values. Once I got a handle on that, I was not very shy about asking people for their money and their help."

Despite her success in drawing donations, McSally remains critical of the campaign finance system.

"There's got to be a better way," she said. Campaign finance reform "takes the ability to get the message out away from the party and the candidate.

"I see these guys coming on TV both supporting and opposing me, and I'm like, 'Who are these guys?'"

But she may just brave it again.

McSally plans to stay in Tucson, looking for ways to serve, she said. That may mean elected office, but she's not constraining her options yet.

In the near future, she'll likely take public-speaking engagements and maybe start on a book.

She's considering writing about lessons she's learned along the way that she thinks could be instructive or inspiring to young people.

She said it's likely to consider questions such as, "Can one person make a difference?" and include a hefty dose of, "Don't take no for an answer."

Since the election, Barber has hardly paused. He outlined his position on fiscal cliff negotiations in his victory speech.

"Now, our charge and our mandate is clear, and that is to stand up for the middle class and look out for Southern Arizona's future," Barber said. "We cannot cut our way out of this deficit. We have to have new revenues."

The retired director of the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities and former Giffords district director was shot alongside Giffords during the mass shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011. She endorsed his candidacy.

"This is a 50-50 district. It's tough to win in a competitive district," said Rodd McLeod, a Democratic political strategist who worked with the Barber campaign. "One of the hardest things for us was having to go back to folks and ask for more money after having just won an election."


Ron Barber:

• Total raised this year: $2.7 million

• Amount raised since July 3: $1.16 million

• Amount raised from Oct. 18 to Election Day: $203,000

• Amount in the coffers Nov. 26: $133,600

• Total spending from outside political groups favoring him: $981,000

• Biggest outside supporters: House Majority PAC ($642,000) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($285,000)

Martha McSally:

• Total raised this year: $1.4 million

• Amount raised since July 1: $1.04 million

• Amount raised from Oct. 18 to Election Day: $382,000

• Amount in the coffers Nov. 26: $57,600

• Total spending from outside political groups favoring her: $2 million

• Biggest outside supporters: National Republican Congressional Committee ($1.4 million), The 60 Plus Association Inc. ($350,000) and the Arizona Republican Party ($225,000)

Source: Federal Election Commission

Contact reporter Carli Brosseau at or 573-4197. On Twitter @carlibrosseau.