In somewhat of a surprise announcement, Democrat Ron Barber said Monday he will run for office in the newly drawn Congressional District 2 later this year.

Barber, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ long time district director, is already running to complete his former boss’ term in the Congressional District 8 special election. He is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face one of four Republicans vying for that party’s nomination in the June 12 special election.

Although Barber, 66, didn’t take a position on the permanent seat when he announced on Feb. 9 he would run in the special election, it was widely speculated he would only to complete Giffords’ term and then return to his career behind the scenes.

But he said he’s become energized on the campaign trail over the last five weeks.

“I’m actually having fun,” said Barber in a Monday conference call. “Running a campaign is not easy but I’m enjoying it in large part because of the people who are coming to help us with the campaign.”

He said he would have liked to have made his decision sooner, but needed to see how he felt on the campaign trail. He said he needed to make sure he was healthy enough to be a full time Congressman and ensure his family approved.

Barber is a survivor of the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, having been shot once in the cheek and once in the upper leg. He suffered nerve damage in his lower left leg, and he still sometimes walks with a cane.

His family signed off this weekend, and his doctor signed off during a recent visit in which he told Barber, “I’ve never seen you look so energized. Obviously, the campaign has helped you get even stronger than you were when you got in.”

Barber said he called the other Democrats who had already committed to running in CD 2 to inform them of his decision. He did not ask any of them to drop out of the race, he said.

One of them, state Rep. Steve Farley, said he will step aside and help get Barber elected. Farley plans to run for state Senate in District 9, he said.  State Rep. Matt Heinz said he plans to stay in the race for CD 2.

The other two — state Sen. Paula Aboud and Nomiki Konst, a former University of Arizona student — have yet to return calls. It’s unknown if Nan Walden, a pecan-farm executive who was expected to join the race, will still run.

The four Republicans running in the special election — Dave Sitton, Martha McSally, Frank Antenori and Jesse Kelly — have all vowed to run again in the CD 2.

The primary for the regular election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

The special election will be in the existing CD8, in which Republicans have an advantage in registered voters. The regular election will be in the new district of CD2, where the gap between Democrats and Republicans is minimal.

In explaining why he decided to run in the special election, Barber said Giffords, who resigned in January to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head in an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011, asked him to complete her term. He said that day he never intended to run for office and that he is not a politician. Asked Monday if he could still say that, he said yes.

“I don’t see myself as a politician,” said Barber, who has never run for office before. “I see myself as someone who is interested in serving my community.”

After the shooting, Barber launched the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, which focused on helping the community heal with a focus on civility and mental-health awareness.

Before going to work for Giffords in 2006, Barber worked 32 years at the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities. Barber also has experience running a small business. For 22 years he and his wife, Nancy, owned Toy Traders-Storks Nest, which sold secondhand baby clothes, children's furniture and maternity clothes.

Barber has lived in Tucson since 1959. His wife is a native of the Old Pueblo. The couple's two adult daughters and their four grandchildren live here, too.

Asked if he would still run if he lost the CD8 special election, he said he plans to win it and take that momentum into the next campaign.

“I do plan to be the incumbent running in CD2,” Barber said. “I’m going to be in this all the way.”

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or


Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or