National News

Jun 24, 2012 10:00 AM by CNN Wire Staff

Giffords' successor, shooting survivor holds symbolic meet-and-greet event

(CNN) -- Days after being sworn in to fill Gabrielle Giffords' congressional seat, Rep. Ron Barber hobnobbed with constituents at a "Congress On Your Corner" event -- the same type of meet-and-greet at which he, Giffords and 17 others were shot, six fatally.

Then in her third term, Giffords was holding her own "Congress On Your Corner" on January 8, 2011, outside a Safeway supermarket in Tucson when authorities say Jared Lee Loughner began opening fire. Shot in the head, Giffords resigned from Congress just over a year later to focus on her recovery.

Barber himself was severely injured in the shooting, though he kept his job as a congressional aide to Giffords throughout the ordeal. He told CNN's Piers Morgan in February that he decided to run for Congress after his former boss personally asked him to.

"I went away from the conversation and gave it considerable thought. Finally, I was able to say to her, 'Congresswoman, I will do that,'" he said.

Earlier this month, he defeated Republican Jesse Kelly by a 52% to 45% margin to win Giffords' old seat and represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District. He was sworn in Tuesday in Washington.

His first official event as congressman in his home state was also held outside a Safeway in Tucson, albeit a different one than where last year's shooting took place.

Giffords routinely held "Congress On Your Corner" gatherings to meet southern Arizona residents personally, and she held one last January shortly before leaving Congress.

Despite being pushed back four hours due to what Barber said on his Facebook page were "travel problems," video showed a long line of people waiting to talk to Barber on Saturday.

CNN affiliate KOLD reported several hundred constituents showed up to discuss a range of issues, and that their new representative met with them one-on-one.

The attendees included several people who were in the middle of the January 2011 violence.

Bill Badger, one of those who helped subdue the gunman, told KOLD, "I had to come down here today to get past this stage of getting over the whole thing."

Another survivor, Patricia Maisch, said she didn't think "anybody will ever get over" the shooting.

"You have to live with the hole in your heart," Maisch said.

On the heels of his election win, Barber has another race looming on the horizon: His term expires in January, meaning he'll be on the ballot again in November. By then, district lines in Arizona will move slightly and should become more amenable to Democrats, though still competitive.

The moderate Democrat told CNN this week that he was focused on local issues, including those affecting seniors, veterans and "middle class concerns."

TM & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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