Arizona's 2nd Congressional District Is A Neck-And-Neck Rematch

By Kate Sheehy
October 27, 2014
Audio Clip

Arizona's 2nd Congressional District Is A Neck-And-Neck Rematch

Kate Sheehy
Democratic incumbent for District 2 Ron Barber at his headquarters in Tucson
Kate Sheehy
District 2 Challenger Martha McSally with Chairman of the House of Veterans Affairs, Jeff Miller at a veterans round table in Tucson
Kate Sheehy
Barber talks about an upcoming debate with college students helping out the campaign.

TUCSON - Southern Arizona's 2nd Congressional District race is a rematch between Republican Martha McSally, a retired Air Force Colonel, and Democratic incumbent Ron Barber.

In 2012, Barber barely beat McSally. This time around, it’s one of the most expensive races in the country with candidate and outside spending reaching nearly $14.5 million and elections a week away, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The seat is well-known as the one held by Gabrielle Giffords until she resigned in 2012 after being shot the year before in Tucson. This race, like the first time the two candidates faced off, is going to be down to the wire.

The 2nd Congressional District is comprised of half of Pima County and all of Cochise County and covers 83 miles along of the border. The rematch between Ron Barber and Martha McSally is one of 22 toss-up races in the House. Registered voters here are about one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third Independent.

On a warm October morning, Ron Barber was campaigning at the Tucson Classics Car Show. Mike Trujillo made his way over to say hello to the candidate. He said he supports Barber because of his efforts on border security.

“I was born and raised on the border, Douglas, Arizona," Trujillo said. "So I know those issues and I know how difficult it’s been. And I know that the border is 100 percent more secure than what it used to be."

Barber said he has paid close attention to the border during his short time in Congress. 

“I pushed back on the White House when they wanted to take down an effective radar system that was helping to identify border intruders, such as cartels. I’ve worked hard to get more agents to the border, customs agents at ports of entry,” Barber said.  

Challenger Martha McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. She emphasizes that her service in the Air Force gives her the experience needed to handle matters of national security. She said Barber’s vote against a recent border bill shows he is not serious about protecting the border. 

“Here he says he cares about border security and this was going to provide more resources and speed up the processing of the kids, give more money to the immigration judges and send the National Guard to the border. And he voted against it,” McSally said.

Barber said he could not vote for the bill because it did not address border security. 

Each candidate said they are being misrepresented by the slew of TV attack ads from political action committees. 


One of the most controversial of these ads came from Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords' superPAC Americans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords supports Barber, who was her district director and also was wounded in the 2011 shooting in Tucson. 


The ad accuses McSally of not supporting tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of stalkers.

“As somebody who’s been a victim of stalking, it was personally offensive,” McSally said.  

The ad stopped airing. Barber said his campaign had nothing to do with the ad. But he said gun control is an issue that he and McSally don't agree on.

“She says that we shouldn’t have guns in the hands of stalkers," Barber said. "However, in order to do that we have to close the gun show loophole, the internet loophole. She doesn’t agree with that."

The “gun show loophole” allows a person to buy guns from a private dealer without a background check. 

McSally said she supports the laws on the books. She didn’t answer directly if she supports closing the loophole.

“I support 2nd amendment rights, that’s no secret," McSally said. "And I support making sure that stalkers, felons, domestic abusers and those who are not here legally and those who are mentally ill, do not get firearms."

Bridget Sherbo is from Vail, Ariz. and was also attending the classics car show. She said she’s voting for McSally because her right to own a gun is one of the greatest concerns to her and her family. 

“People that own guns don’t commit the violent acts," Sherbo said. "So taking and unarming your local citizens is not going to make the world a safer place."

Both candidates say the economy is the most important issue to people overall. Barber is a member of the small business committee in the House and said he has helped pass legislation to deregulate small business. McSally said the economic uncertainty created by Congress has made it challenging for small businesses to grow and get access to capital. 

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.