Following Tuesday's special primary for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' vacant seat, Tucson residents and ASU students say candidates' relationship with Giffords will play an important role in the coming electoral race.
Voters in Arizona's Congressional District 8 chose Republican Jesse Kellyto contend against Giffords' former aide Ron Barber and Green Party candidate Charlie Manolakis in the June 12 special general election.
Giffords and Barber were injured in a Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that occurred at a "Congress on Your Corner" event in northwest Tucson. Giffords was shot in the head and resigned from Congress on Jan. 25, 2012, to focus on her health.
Kelly, an Iraq War veteran of the Marine Corps and construction project manager, won against three other GOP candidates — Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Vail, former Air Force pilot Martha McSally and broadcaster Dave Sitton.
Kelly narrowly lost to Giffords in the 2010 midterm election, about 4,000 votes shy of unseating the incumbent.
While residents of CD-8 voted predominantly Republican in the special election, some Tucson residents believe Kelly is likely to enter the race as the underdog.
Tucson native and psychology senior Stephanie Morales said Giffords is still popular in Tucson and residents are likely to lean toward someone who shares Giffords' views.
"Since people admire and respect Giffords, they are going to want to elect someone whom Giffords trusts and supports," Morales said.
Morales added Giffords has a positive image in Tucson.
"People admire her for surviving the shooting and still coming out strong," Morales said. "Even people who did not previously like her feel that it is a true miracle she survived."
Political science and transborder studies sophomore Isabella Leavitt said Barber's relationship with Giffords should help him during his campaign.
"There's a special relationship between (Giffords) and Tucson. She's our star," Leavitt said. "In the end, she did endorse him and I think it will help his efforts."
Leavitt said Barber’s experience working with Giffords as the district's director also gives him an advantage in the race.
"After the shooting in 2011, he made sure things got done," Leavitt said. "He understands the issues of the district."
Barber and Kelly are focused on supporting military families and providing services for veterans.
In a video released Tuesday, Barber said his priorities include looking out for middle class and military families.
"As district director, I saw the need to secure the border and get our veterans the benefits they've earned," Barber said in the video.
San Diego political action committee Combat Veterans for Congress endorsed Kelly for Congress Thursday.
The former marine said in an April 19 statement he would work to protect veterans and their benefits if elected.
"As a combat veteran myself, I understand the risks they have taken and the sacrifices that our service members have made while wearing the uniform," Kelly said in the news release.
The special general election, which was called for by Gov. Jan Brewer, will take place on June 12.
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