by Jim Nintzel
We mentioned in last week’s cover story on the race between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Jesse Kelly to complete Gabrielle Giffords’ congressional term that Barber was attracting cross-over support from Republicans.
Today, a group of those Republicans gathered at Barber’s office to talk about why they were supporting him.
Bob Walkup, the former mayor of Tucson, said that Barber’s experience as the Giffords’ district director made him “the best person for the job.”
“What is really important is a person who has demonstrated he knows how to get the job done for the people,” said Walkup. “He has done it in the past and he will do it in the future.”
The general theme sounded by the half-dozen Republicans who spoke: As Giffords’ district director, Barber reached out to different sectors in the community to find ways to support them.
Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik praised Barber and Giffords for working with him on city issues. Laura Almquist, who had worked as Giffords’ treasurer in the past, praised the constituent services delivered under Giffords and Barber. Tim Amalong, the former President of the 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee, remembered Barber’s support for the Air National Guard unit. Alex Jacome, a former lobbyist for the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, and developer John Wesley Miller said that Barber helped solve problems for their industry.
Former state lawmaker Pete Hershberger called Barber a “consensus builder. Ron knows the citizens of District 8, he knows the issues of District 8. He will bring results.”
Hershberger praised Barber’s willingness to work with a wide variety of interests in District 8.
“He’s sensible and reasonable,” Hershberger said. “He’s not one of these guys who’s way out there on either side and we need more people like that in politics.”
The subtext beneath the comments at the press conference reflected concern that Kelly is an extremist who would fight for conservative legislation in Washington but not do much to keep the Congressional District 8 office working on behalf of the Southern Arizona.
Barber underlined the point that he would reach across party lines to address community concerns.
“If I’m fortunate enough to be your member of Congress after June 12, I will go there to solve problems in a bipartisan way,” Barber said. “I will not let ideology get in the way.”
Attracting moderate Republican and independent voters was key to Giffords’ success in the district and is vital to Barber’s campaign against Kelly, a Tea Party conservative. Many of the Republicans who are supporting Barber were also supported Giffords in the past.
Among the Republicans who support Barber:
• Sahuarita Vice-Mayor Lynne Skelton
• Former Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis
• Former Sierra Vista Mayor Robert Strain
• General John Wickham (U.S. Army Chief of Staff for President Ronald Reagan)
• Physical therapist Phil Tygiel
• Attorney Pat Lopez
• Businessman Bruce Dusenberry
• Businessman Darryl Dobras