Arizona’s slowly unfolding election has just scored another victory for Congressional Democrats. As the vote count continued on Saturday, it became clear that Ron Barber of Tucson had obtained an insurmountable lead over his Republican opponent, Martha McSally, for the seat from U.S. Congressional District 8.
Barber was originally elected to serve the state’s Congressional District 2, just last June, during a special election to fill former Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ vacant seat. Previously, he had been Giffords’ district director and was at her side when she was shot in the head by assailant, Jared Loughner. Barber, too, was wounded in the attack, shot in both the face and thigh. But he stepped up to the challenge when Giffords asked him to run to replace her.
In November 6th’s election, the races were for redrawn districts. While the old District 2 was a fairly safe Democratic seat, the new District 8, covering much of the same territory in the Tucson area, was drawn to be more competitive. The race was a lot closer than Barber and his team expected. Nevertheless, he has prevailed to give Arizona’s Democrats a majority in the Congressional delegation–5 Democrats and 4 Republicans–for only the second time in fifty years.
Before the election, the state had just eight Congressional Districts, with a Republican majority, 5 to 3. The redistricting commission kept six districts “safe” — four Republican and two Democratic — but all three of the competitive districts were swept by Democrats.
After taking a concession call from McSally on Saturday morning, Barber spoke to The Arizona Republic about undertaking his first full term. He said he was ready to work on “a grand bargain” to fend off deep cuts in spending:
“Starting a week from Tuesday, I think we’re going to get down to serious business. The rhetoric certainly speaks to collaboration and compromise and finding common ground. The proof will be in the actions that we come up with, and that’s what I’m waiting to see.”
The nation is also waiting to see, wondering whether a strengthened hand actually gives Democrats more leverage in negotiating compromises with the GOP. For Arizona Democrats, however, the taste of victory is already sweet.