Jesse Kelly, with wife Aubrey, delivers his concession speech on election… (Ron Medvescek / Associated…)
WASHINGTON – Looks like two defeats in a row were enough for tea party favorite Jesse Kelly, the Arizona Republican who lost the special election Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Kelly, who had lost to Democrat Giffords in 2010, was defeated Tuesday by her former aide, Ron Barber. The special election gives the seat to Barber for only the remainder of Giffords’ term, so he will have to run again in November. Kelly had considered making a third attempt to win the Tucson-area’s congressional seat.
But because of redistricting, the candidates in November will run in a district that is somewhat more Democratic-leaning than the current configuration. And Kelly’s strongly conservative views – particularly past statements in favor of overhauling Medicare and Social Security – made him a target for Democrats. During the campaign for the special election, Barber had focused heavily on those statements.
“Looking at the results from Tuesday, we have decided to withdraw from the race for Congress,” Kelly said in a statement. "I would like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my wife, Aubrey, and our supporters for their unwavering commitment to the values that make America great.”
Giffords resigned from the House this year, saying that she needed to concentrate on recovering from the wounds she suffered last year in an assassination attempt in which 18 other people were shot, six of whom died. Barber was among those wounded, and Giffords backed his decision to run for the seat.
Kelly lost to Giffords by only about 4,000 votes in 2010, but was defeated by a considerably larger margin Tuesday. Republicans will hold a primary in late August to pick a nominee, with Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, considered the front-runner.