Ron Barber, Reluctant but Loyal, Agreed to Seek Giffords’s Seat
When Gabrielle Giffords began her first run for Congress in 2005, Ron Barber retired from his job and volunteered to help her. When she took office, Mr. Barber immediately signed on as her district director, hiring local staff members and arranging her events back home.
And when Ms. Giffords was shot in January 2011, Mr. Barber was just a few feet away. A bullet struck him near his groin, and another hit his cheek, exiting through his neck.
Last month, two weeks after Ms. Giffords stepped down from Congress, Mr. Barber announced that he would run for her seat.
Mr. Barber, 66, has spent much of the last year recovering from his injuries, with countless hours of physical therapy to regain movement in his left leg. Although Ms. Giffords’s Congressional office reopened days after the shooting, Mr. Barber was not well enough to return to work until July. Even then, he could stay in the office for only four hours at a time. By the time the doctor told him he was well enough to work full time, Mr. Barber was announcing his run in the June special election for the southern Arizona district.
In many ways, Mr. Barber’s bid seems obvious: he was constantly by Ms. Giffords’s side, sharing many of her political views and traveling through the district she represented. Since the shooting, he has been a regular presence on local television, sponsoring memorial events through a foundation he created.
But Mr. Barber, who worked for decades in social service administration, had promised his wife that he would never run for office. He describes himself as a reluctant candidate, cringing when he hears the word “politician.” Still, when asked why he decided to run, he lit up with a broad smile and sparkling eyes.
“Because Gabby asked me to,” he said. “And I really haven’t ever said no to Gabby.”
After Mr. Barber announced his bid and received the endorsement of Ms. Giffords, who continues to recover in Houston, several other Democrats who had planned to run in June pulled out, saying that they would concentrate on the fall election. Mr. Barber says that he has not made up his mind about whether he will run in November but has not ruled it out.