Arizona Democrat leads race to replace Gabrielle Giffords

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket
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Democrat Ron Barber holds a 12-point lead heading into Tuesday's special election to choose a successor to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to a new Arizona poll.

Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PDF) reported Monday that Barber, Giffords' former district director, leads Republican Jesse Kelly 53 to 41 percent among likely voters in Arizona's 8th District race. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The poll found that voters who have already cast early ballots (57 percent of those surveyed) favor Barber 58 to 37 percent. But Kelly, a tea party star and Giffords' 2010 opponent, splits the support of those planning to vote on Tuesday—46 percent say they plan to back Barber and 45 percent say they'll vote for Kelly.

Public polls leading up to Tuesday's vote have shown a tight race for the seat, which was occupied by Giffords until her resignation this past January because of her ongoing recovery from a gunshot to the head sustained during a 2011 town hall attack. Barber was also injured in that attack.

Giffords has personally been largely absent from the campaign, but she stepped out for her first public appearance for Barber this past Saturday to attend a get-out-the-vote concert.

The Tucson-area district remains competitive territory, and Kelly continues to enjoy wide name recognition stemming from his 2010 campaign, as well as national interest from the tea party.

Click to see more photos of Gabrielle Giffords

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Barber held an 11-point lead. His lead was 12 percentage points total.