THE BARBER IS IN
Democrat Ron Barber, a longtime aide to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, this week delivered a big game-change in this year's Congressional District 2 race: He wants a full term in Congress.
Barber says he decided to run for the CD 2 seat after talking to voters about the hard times that they are facing.
"I just felt more and more that I really wanted to do more than six months and really tackle these problems," Barber says.
Barber cleared the Democratic field when he got into the special election to complete Giffords' term in Congressional District 8. He'll face the winner of the April 17 GOP primary in a June 12 special election that was triggered when Giffords announced her resignation at the end of January. (For more on the GOP primary, see "The Second Coming".)
The new CD 2, which was created as part of the state's redistricting process, eliminates almost the entire advantage that Republicans now enjoy in CD 8 in a favor of a more-or-less even breakdown between Democrats and Republicans.
Barber, who has said he never intended to seek public office, tells The Skinny that his thought process has evolved, from when he first said he would try to complete Giffords' term, to the decision to run in CD 2. He said that he made the final call after talking it over with his family last weekend.
"They asked a lot of questions, and they are all in and fully support my decision, and without them, I wouldn't be doing this," Barber says.
Barber, who was shot twice while standing alongside Giffords during the shooting rampage of Jan. 8, 2011, says that his doctors have given him the green light to run for the full term.
"One of the remarkable things that have happened over the last five weeks since I started the campaign is the amount of energy that I've gotten from the supporters all across the district," Barber says. "So when I went back to my doctor to talk about whether I should—or have the ability physically—to run for CD 2, he said, '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's new ambition is scrambling the plans of other Democrats who announced that they wanted to seek the CD 2 seat later this year.
State Rep. Steve Farley has given up on a congressional run and returned to his original plan of running for the Arizona State Senate.
"I'm doing everything I can to help (Barber) out in the fall, and I'll do anything he thinks would be helpful," Farley says. "I'm going to focus back on the Senate race in District 9 and see if we can retake that majority."
Nan Stockholm Walden, who had been preparing to launch a congressional campaign, also decided against running after Barber's announcement.
"I am looking forward to continuing my work in the public and private sector on behalf of Arizona," she said in a statement. "I plan as well to work hard to get Rich Carmona and Ron Barber elected, and for Raúl Grijalva's re-election."
But state Rep. Matt Heinz says he plans to continue running for the CD 2 seat.
"My plans have not changed," Heinz says. "It's an open seat in CD 2. We always expected a large field of candidates. ... We always knew it was going to be a competitive race, and we look forward to a robust, healthy and very positive discussion with the voters of CD 2."
Heinz, who stepped away from running in the special election to allow Barber to avoid a primary, says his endorsement of Barber in the CD 8 race still stands.
"The priority in the CD 8 special election is to maintain Democratic control of the seat," Heinz says.
State Sen. Paula Aboud tells The Skinny that she also plans to stay in the CD 2 race.
"I'm focused on the new district and the new term, and I'm continuing forward," Aboud says.
Aboud adds that she, too, is standing by her endorsement of Barber in the special election.
"Ron is a better choice than Jesse Kelly or Frank Antenori, but let's see how it all shakes out," Aboud says.
PATTERSON'S PLETHORA OF PROBLEMS
If his fellow legislators want to get rid of Rep. Daniel Patterson (and it sure seems like they do), they'll have to drag him out of the House of Representatives.
And they'll have to do it before they adjourn, probably in about a month.
The House Ethics Committee held its first hearing last week on the domestic-violence allegations launched by Patterson's former live-in girlfriend and campaign manager, Georgette Escobar. The committee unanimously recommended that the House hire an independent investigator to sort out the messy he-said, she-said.
"There are some serious allegations, and the complaint that was received was also signed by a significant number of members of the House," said Republican Rep. Ted Vogt, the Ethics Committee chair. "So it warrants investigation."
The job of looking into the accusations has gone to attorney Michael Manning, who has dug deep into the likes of disgraced financier Charlie Keating, disgraced former governor Fife Symington, and disgraceful Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In a letter to the committee, Patterson said he would vigorously contest the allegations and asked the committee to give him until April 12 to write a response to the ethics complaint.
If the committee decided to continue the investigation after April 12, Patterson said he would need another 45 days to respond—meaning he would need until the last week of May, long after most politicos expect the Legislature to adjourn for the year.
Instead, the committee voted unanimously to set a March 28 deadline for both the investigator's report and Patterson's official response.
Vogt said he wanted to proceed as quickly as possible with the investigation and hearing, though he didn't know if the matter would be decided before the session ends.
"We're looking for a speedy resolution one way or the other," said Vogt.
Patterson is also trying to postpone his Tucson City Court case; he is being charged with four counts of domestic violence against Escobar after their breakup last month. Patterson has pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault, disorderly conduct, imprisonment and harassment. He asked the judge to postpone the proceedings until the legislative session ends.
PARTY OF ONE
While Patterson has lost many friends at the Capitol over this messy ordeal, his former girlfriend and alleged victim isn't making many new ones via Facebook.
After being arrested for possession of methamphetamines in La Paz County, Georgette Escobar started a Facebook tirade against the city of Quartzsite and Congressman Raúl Grijalva's camp—the first for supposedly being corrupt, and the latter for supposedly using her. She also said she had switched political parties.
"Georgette Escobar is a new member republican party & constituent who wants to blow whistle on dem corruption and lies not to mention highway robbery," she posted on Congressional District 1 GOP candidate Jonathan Paton's wall.
We're sure Paton was glad for the support.
Also changing on Facebook: Escobar's relationship status this week went from "single" to "in a relationship—it's complicated."
Not long after Escobar sent us a Facebook message saying she was going into hiding, she sent out invites to an event in Parker, asking 127 people, mostly Tucson Democrats, to "come witness & show support for dv victim Georgette Escobar & other victims of abuse and rape."
As of press time, only Escobar had clicked to say she was going.