Republican ousts ex-Gabby Giffords aide in recount for US House seat

TUCSON, Ariz. (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Ron Barber, an Arizona Democrat and former aide to Gabrielle Giffords, has officially lost his re-election bid to the Republican challenger in November’s congressional elections, a judge certified on Wednesday.

A superior court judge declared Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and a pioneer of women’s combat aviation in the 1990s, the winner after a state-mandated recount showed she won by 167 votes in the Nov. 4 election.

« There’s no getting around that this was an incredibly close and hard-fought race. After what’s been a long campaign season, it’s time to come together and heal our community, » McSally said in a statement.

This was the last seat still being contested following the mid-term elections and gives the Republicans a 247-188 majority in the next House of Representatives.

Barber, who has served in Congress since a 2012 special election to replace Giffords, congratulated McSally in a statement and thanked his constituents.

Giffords’ former district office director before she was shot and wounded in a 2011 rampage that left six dead and 18 wounded, Barber was himself shot in the face and leg in the same incident.

McSally has already been appointed to the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees – both important to her district, which includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and is about 80 miles of the Mexico border.

She lost a Republican primary in the 2012 special election to replace Giffords, and then unsuccessfully challenged Barber in a newly-drawn district as he sought re-election in a race that began immediately after Barber’s special election victory.

Since McSally’s win in last month’s election was within a margin of 0.1 percent – fewer than 200 out of about 220,000 votes – state law required the recount, which was done by machine and by hand by Pima County election officials.

« I sincerely thank Congressman Barber for his service over many years to southern Arizona. I’ll be seeking his input to continue strong constituent services and help ensure a smooth transition, » McSally said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)

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