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Challenger concedes Arizona race to Giffords' former aide

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By The Arizona Republic
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, 5:18 p.m.

PHOENIX — Republican Martha McSally on Saturday conceded defeat in her hard-fought race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, bringing closure to Arizona's final pending congressional election and giving Democrats a five-to-four advantage in the state's House delegation in the next Congress.

Barber's narrow victory in southern Arizona's 2nd Congressional District helps him emerge from the shadow of his former boss and predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, by giving him a full, two-year House term of his own. It means that for only the second time since the mid-1960s, Democrats will outnumber Republicans in Arizona's new nine-member U.S. House delegation. Republicans overall, however, are in the majority in the House.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, the triumphant Barber, 67, said he is eager to return to Washington to work on a “grand bargain” that would allow Congress to avoid deep cuts in spending on defense and other priorities and to tackle other legislative challenges.

Although Barber was supported by Giffords and was viewed by many as the frontrunner, McSally proved to be an unexpectedly formidable rival.

The photo finish came as a surprise and should serve as a wake-up call for Barber, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“It means that Barber has to redouble his efforts for 2014, assuming that he's running again,” Sabato said.

Barber is Giffords' former district director, who won a special election in June to complete her unfinished third term. Giffords resigned Jan. 25 to focus on recovering from a Jan. 8, 2011, shooting rampage at a constituent event outside a grocery store.

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