Gabrielle Giffords’ seat up for grabs in Arizona

Rachel Rose Hartman

Arizona voters formerly represented by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords head to the polls Tuesday to choose a successor for the former Democratic lawmaker, who continues her recovery following a January 2011 town hall shooting attack.

Giffords has endorsed her former district director Ron Barber as her preferred replacement in the Tucson-area 8th District. Barber is running unopposed in Tuesday's primary--a welcome piece of news to the party, which had been eager to avoid a potentially competitive Democratic race.

On the Republican side, four candidates are competing for their party's nomination Tuesday: businessman Jesse Kelly, who strongly challenged Giffords in 2010; state Sen. Frank Antenori; Dave Sitton, a businessman and broadcaster; and Martha McSally, a veteran fighter pilot. Kelly entered the race with a larger degree of name recognition than his competitors, due to his 2010 bid.

Tuesday's GOP winner will compete against Barber June 12. The impact of Tuesday's election, however, extends far beyond 2012.

The candidate who wins the June 12 special election will have an added advantage in the separate race to choose a permanent successor to Giffords (the two-year term for that seat begins in January 2013.)

One major complication for candidates running is that the 8th District for which candidates are competing Tuesday (and in June) is different than the redrawn and renumbered District 2 in which the candidates competing for a full term will be running this November.

Candidate filing for that race doesn't close until late May.

Correction 7:09 p.m. ET: This story was corrected to say the shooting attack at Giffords' town hall occurred in 2011, not 2010.

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