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Race for Gabrielle Giffords’ Old Seat Shapes Up for Hard Fight

Alex Wong/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- On Tuesday, voters in Arizona’s 8th congressional district will go to the polls to cast their votes in the special election to fill the seat left open after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ resignation.

The race, which has been under way since April, is between Republican nominee Jesse Kelly, a former Marine who ran against Giffords in 2010, and Ron Barber, Giffords’ former district director.  Barber himself was injured in the shooting outside the Safeway grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011.  He was shot in the leg and the cheek.

Giffords has not been very present in Barber’s campaign.  She was featured on a mailer paid for by the Democratic Party of Arizona, and she will be campaigning for the candidate this weekend.  However, regardless of Giffords level of involvement, the race was never going to be in the bag for Democrats.

“It’s a district that’s pretty much split right down the middle, and one of the reasons that Gabby Giffords was able to get elected and re-elected was that she was a more conservative Democrat,” said Brinton Milward, director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, who also directs the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy.

The 8th district, currently located in the southeastern portion of the state, leans Republican.  It has gone red in the past three presidential elections.  Giffords narrowly won her re-election in 2010 against Kelly, 30, ultimately defeating him by a margin of about two percentage points.

Voting registration figures from the Arizona Secretary of State show a higher number of registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the district -- 156,361, as compared to the Dem’s 130,645 -- so winning over Independents will be extra important for Barber.

Barber, 66, has held a fundraising advantage over Kelly for most of the race.  He’s raised about $1.2 million in his campaign cycle, while Kelly has raised just under $700,000, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Outside money has poured into the race -- more than $2.2 million has been spent by groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the National Republican Campaign Committee, the pro-Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC, and the pro-Republican super PAC American Crossroads, according to the Federal Election Commission.  A majority of that spending has been in support of Kelly, or opposing Barber.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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