Democratic U.S. Representative Ron Barber, who almost died in the shooting that wounded former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was declared the winner on Saturday after defeating Republican Martha McSally in a closely contested race.
"It's been a long wait, but here we are," Barber told reporters on Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Ultimately, people saw a difference between us about the issues that are important."
Barber is Giffords’ former district director who won a special election in June in what was then Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, to complete her unfinished third term.
Giffords resigned Jan. 25 to focus on recovering from a near-fatal head wound that she received in a Jan. 8, 2011, assassination attempt near Tucson. Six people were killed, while 13 others, including Barber, a 67-year-old grandfather, was shot in the thigh and cheek, were wounded.
Early votes and an endorsement from Giffords bolstered his campaign. But on Nov. 6, race for the 2nd Congressional District seat was too close to call between he and Republican candidate, Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who proved to be an unexpectedly formidable rival. McSally emerged on election night with a lead that put her thousands of votes ahead.
But that lead evaporated as the final ballots were counted.
By late Friday, Barber had a 1,402-vote lead on his opponent, The Associated Press reported, adding that only 15,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted in the whole of Pima County, including areas not in the 2nd District, making it impossible for McSally to prevail, The New York Times said.
This morning, McSally,46, called Barber and conceded the race, a spokesperson for the Democrat told ABCNews.com.
In her Facebook message, McSally, the first female to fly in combat, said: "While this particular battle is over, I still have a fire in my belly to make a difference and serve our community and country. I look forward to seeing where that call to duty takes me next."
In a Saturday telephone interview with The Arizona Republic, the triumphant Barber, 67, said he is eager to return to Washington, D.C., 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.
“I know everyone says this when they get elected, but I really mean that I intend to represent the whole district,” he said. “I’m going to spending a lot of time with people in communities where they may not have supported my candidacy to make sure they know that I’m accessible. I’ve not forgotten them and I’m not in any way going to stop representing them.”
Although the 2nd District race’s conclusion finalizes Arizona’s new U.S. House delegation, one other congressional race remains undecided in Florida’s 18th Congressional District between Representative Allen B. West, a Republican and Patrick Murphy, West’s Democratic opponent.
After West refused to concede and complained about a series of tabulation errors, a recount of early-voting ballots began on Saturday .
St. Lucie County election officials have until Sunday to certify the election results.