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In echo of past, Barber takes ‘Congress on Your Corner’ back to Tucson Safeway

This Jan. 23, 2012 file photo shows U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., touring the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center, one of her favorite charities, with her then-staffer Ron Barber in Tucson. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON – Days after being sworn in to replace Gabrielle Giffords, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson, will hold his first constituent meeting at a venue remarkably similar to one where he, Giffords and others were shot in 2011.

Aides said it was Barber‘s decision to hold his first “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Tucson Safeway this weekend.

It was at another Tucson Safeway where 13 people were wounded and six killed when a gunman opened fire during a Jan. 8, 2011, “Congress on Your Corner” event that Giffords, then a congresswoman, was holding.

“He is doing this for one reason: to give people the opportunity to tell him what their concerns are,” said Mark Kimble, a Barber spokesman.

“The entire time he was seeking the office he said he was going to be as open and as accessible as possible,” Kimble said.

The House is off Friday and resumes work Tuesday, giving Barber four days to travel and meet with constituents.

“I will not become isolated in Washington. My work at the Capitol will be influenced by what I hear and learn here in Arizona,” Barber said in a statement Thursday announcing the Congress on Your Corner event.

It continues where Giffords left off: One of her last acts as a congresswoman was to “finish” the interrupted 2011 Congress on Your Corner event, meeting privately in Tucson this January with people who had been there a year earlier.

Giffords, who was shot in the head in the attack, resigned her seat on Jan. 25 this year to focus on her recovery. She later stumped for Barber, a former district aide, when he ran to finish out the remainder of her term. He was elected last week and sworn in Tuesday.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Barber said that despite the short window until the next election, he believes he can make a mark in Congress.

Saturday’s event is billed for residents of the 8th District, which Barber currently represents. When he runs for re-election this fall, however, it will be in the new 2nd District, which was created in this year’s redistricting.

The new district is a more compact version of the current district and it leans slightly more Democratic than the current 8th District. Barber has pledged to run in the new district this fall, but said he’ll focus first on serving the people of District 8.

When asked if Barber was trying to make a statement with the choice of location for his first constituent meeting, Kimble demurred.

“I think those are the kind of things I’ll let you guys say,” Kimble said.

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