Arizona Democrats are working overtime in Tuesday’s special election to win the open House seat once held by Gabrielle Giffords — an effort to avoid a second election loss in as many weeks during the final months of the presidential election cycle. Democrats were dealt a setback June 5 when they failed to oust Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election.
Democrats tried for the recall of Walker, because he fought the big public unions over collective bargaining. Democratic leaders tried to replace the first-term governor because they thought he and state Republican lawmakers overstepped their authority when they eliminated labor agreements for most state public employees in an effort to cut a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.
But political analysts are saying the defeat showed voters nationwide still feel passionate about wanting elected officials to keep government living within its means, and that the loss was a setback for labor unions and the Democratic Party that it traditionally supports.
“The (national) importance of this election depends on the outcome,” David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said Tuesday. “If Barber wins, it’s what we expected, Gifford’s aide inherits the seat. If Kelly wins, it sends a message about President Obama’s job performance.”
Wasserman said that he believed the race was a tossup, because special elections are a little tougher to predict than regular elections, in part because voter turnout is less predictable. Meanwhile Republicans have been trying to make the southern Arizona House race a referendum on Obama and his handling of the economy. Kelly is a former Marine who narrowly lost to Giffords two years ago.
Jesse Kelly — no relation Giffords’ husband — continued to make the case in the election’s final hours that Barber and Obama are out of touch with people in the district.
Kelly, 30, has called for lower taxes and more energy production as a way to improve the economy. He would roll back federal regulations and environmental protections in an effort to boost oil and gas drilling.
Barber also is trying to convince voters that he understands their concerns. He frequently talks about building up the solar industry and the need to cut taxes, but only for the middle class. While Kelly has made it clear he would not support any income tax increases, Barber has said the wealthy need to “pay their fair share.”