Ron Barber, ex-Giffords aide, to run for her former seat

FILE - This Jan. 23, 2012 file photo shows U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., touring the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center, one of her favorite charities, with her staffer Ron Barber in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, a top aide to former Congresswoman Giffords, is expected announce his candidacy to run in a special election to serve as an interim replacement for the Arizona Democrat who was wounded in a shooting rampage a year ago.
Pool, File,AP Photo/Matt York
U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., touring the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center with her staffer Ron Barber in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 23, 2012.
Pool,AP Photo/Matt York, File

Updated: 3:24 p.m. ET

Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabrielle Giffords, will run in a June 12 special election to serve out her term in Arizona's 8th District, Barber announced on Thursday.

The candidate, a 66-year-old Democrat, served as Giffords' district director in Congress from 2007 until she resigned from Congress last month.  

Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly announced their endorsement of Barber in an e-mail Thursday afternoon.

"Ron is a leader who puts politics aside and brings people together. From running Gabby's district operations and working with people to resolve their problems, to 35 years of service helping people with disabilities, Ron has spent his career fighting for those in need," Kelly wrote in an email to supporters. "Gabby and I are honored to stand with Ron as he launches his campaign."

In a conference call Thursday, Barber said that Giffords had asked him to run for the seat.

"The congresswoman looked at me directly and said, 'Ron, will you run?'" Barber said. He added that after considering the issue with his family, "I was able to say to her thank you for asking me, encouraging me, I'm honored to have your support."

Giffords resigned from Congress in late January, a little over a year after she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt that killed six people and injured more than a dozen more. Barber was one of those wounded in the attack.

The newly-minted candidate said he had not yet decided whether or not he would seek the seat in 2012 or merely serve out Giffords' term as a placeholder.

"I really haven't made that decision yet. I think it would be a little presumptuous of me to be thinking about a second election" at this point, Barber told reporters. "I'm going to make that decision later."

The candidate said he was primarily focused on building up his campaign but would make the decision in advance of the filing deadline for the 2012 race.

Barber said he was not able to get in touch with Matt Heinz, who has already announced a bid in for the seat, but that he hoped Heinz would withdraw in light of his announcement.

"He did tell me awhile back that if i got into the race he would drop out and endorse me," Barber saiad. "I'm hoping he will do that."

In a statement on Thursday, Barber emphasized his commitment to bucking partisanship in Congress and helping to restore "civility to our politics."

"My commitment is to work across the aisle, find common ground and restore civility to our politics so we can strengthen middle-class families of Southern Arizona," he said. "My life's work hasn't been politics, it's been about getting results and solving problems for people. I've been honored by the outpouring of support for our campaign. While there will never be anyone who can fill Congresswoman Giffords' shoes, I look forward to continuing her legacy of putting problem-solving before politics."