Democrat Ron Barber cleared the first hurdle in his re-election bid by crushing Matt Heinz in Tuesday's primary - setting up a matchup against Republican Martha McSally in the Congressional District 2 general election.
Barber won by a 65 percentage-point margin over Heinz, a Tucson doctor and state representative. Barber is currently the U.S. representative in Congressional District 8, having won the June 12 special election to complete term of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In his victory speech, Barber vowed to go back to work today in Congress to improve the lives of Southern Arizonans.
"The campaign is secondary today," he said. "If I do my job well, the election will take care of itself."
Heinz said he felt good about his showing considering the unusual circumstances and said he doesn't regret challenging Barber because it created competition that is central to democracy. This campaign positions him well for a future run for Congress, he said.
"Public service is in my blood," Heinz said.
McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, easily defeated political newcomer Mark Koskiniemi by a 64 percentage point margin in the GOP primary, scoring her first election victory after a 26-year career in the Air Force. She finished second in the CD8 special-election GOP primary.
"I was able to get my credentials, my story and my record of proven leadership out here," McSally said. "It really built on the last campaign."
Barber heads into the matchup against McSally as the incumbent and with a $250,000 edge in campaign funds. But the district still leans Republican, even though the edge in registered voters for the GOP shrunk to 2 percent from 6 percent in the old CD8.
Although she's new to politics, McSally, 46, is no stranger to challenges and said she won't bow down from this one. She was the Air Force's first woman to fly in combat and first woman to command a fighter squadron in combat. In 2001, she sued the Pentagon and won over its requirement that military women serving in Saudi Arabia wear abayas off base. Barber, 67, was serving as Giffords' district director when he was shot twice in the Jan. 8, 2011, rampage that wounded Giffords, eventually forcing her to resign, and in which six people were killed and 13 wounded. He won his second election in two months. He said McSally's policies will make it harder for people who already are struggling.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BradyMcCombs.