Barber top fundraiser in race to replace Giffords

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Ron Barber raised more than twice as much money as any Republican challenger in the special election to fill the congressional seat of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Federal Election Commission records show.

The former Giffords' aide is running unopposed in the April 17 Democratic primary, so he won't have to spend much of the $463,704 he had on hand as of March 28 to move on. All told, he took in $549,132 and spent $85,428 after becoming a candidate Feb. 9.

On the Republican side, FEC records show Tucson businessman and broadcaster Dave Sitton raised $260,550, former 2010 Giffords challenger Jesse Kelly $210,348, and retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally $132,807.

State Sen. Frank Antenori had not filed a report as of midday Friday that was available through the FEC's website, although it was due Thursday. Rules require electronic filing if a candidate either raises, spends or expects to raise or spend at least $50,000 in a year.

Calls to Antenori's campaign and to his personal cellphone were not immediately returned Friday.

Fundraising and spending are indicators of candidates' support and ability to catch the public's eye and spread their messages, and can be big factors in their electability.

Reports submitted by Sitton, Kelly and McSally showed they were spending prolifically to try to win the nomination. With less than two weeks to go until the election, Sitton had the most cash still available to spend, $132,253, with Kelly trailing with $49,395 and McSally with $44,215.

The winner of the Republican primary will take on Barber in the June 12 general election, and the winner of that face-off will serve slightly more than six months before Giffords' original term ends. A regular election for the next two-year seat will be held in November, with an August primary.

Giffords resigned from her seat Jan. 25, just over a year after she was shot at a constituent meet-and-greet in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 others, including Barber and Giffords, were wounded.

Giffords asked Barber to run, and she endorsed him and sent out fundraising appeals. She and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, also opened their own checkbooks, each donating $5,000 to Barber's campaign. Giffords campaign donated $4,000 in cash and services from the retired congresswoman's sizable leftover fundraising balance.

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