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Tussle in Tucson

A tight race for the Giffords seat.

Jun 11, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 37 • By KATE HAVARD
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Back in February, Pelosi and other prominent Democrats threw Barber a fundraiser in Washington, selling tickets for as much as $1,000 a plate. With Pelosi’s help, Barber has raised twice as much money as Kelly. He has little to show for it. The most recent poll, reported in Roll Call in mid-April, put Kelly ahead 49-45 percent.

Given this, and the Republicans’ registration edge of over 25,000 voters in the district (up 6,000 since 2010), Barber could be looking at defeat. And, if so, it is doubtful that the Democratic party will spend time and money in November on a failed congressional candidate who publicly embarrassed the president and the party leadership in May.

If Barber does not run again this fall, state representative Matt Heinz is waiting in the wings to take his place. Heinz doesn’t seem to think that Barber will be back—he is already quietly raising money to “take on Jesse Kelly, the Republican front-runner and Tea Party poster-boy.”

For now, Kelly is focused on defeating Barber. He is also thinking past campaign mode, to Day One in Congress, where he plans “to immediately attempt to stop the EPA’s job-killing agenda.” He also insists that this race is not about him.

“This race is about jobs. This race is about the economy. This is a swing district, and it’s the last election before the presidential race. There’s a lot at stake here,” says Kelly. 

The excitement is even reaching into his family. “My kids are .  .  . vaguely aware of what’s going on,” he says, “but it’s hard to say what they think about it. All I know is, now when I walk in the door, instead of ‘Dada,’ my three-year-old goes, ‘Hey, that’s Jesse Kelly!’ ”

Kate Havard is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard

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