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Democrats hold on to Giffords' Arizona seat in special House election

Published: Tuesday, June 12 2012 11:44 p.m. MDT

Ron Barber, left, won the special election to finish the term of his former boss, Gabrielle Giffords, right, who resigned. (Associated Press) Ron Barber, left, won the special election to finish the term of his former boss, Gabrielle Giffords, right, who resigned. (Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Democrat Ron Barber has won a special House election in southern Arizona to finish the term of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords resigned a year after she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents at a Tucson shopping center.

Barber defeated Republican Jesse Kelly, a former Marine who narrowly lost a House race to Giffords in 2010.

The 66-year-old Barber was seriously injured in the same rampage in which Giffords was shot. Six others were killed.

Holding onto the seat has been a priority for Democrats as they seek to regain control of the House in November.

Republicans tried to make the race a referendum on President Barack Obama, a strategy they'll continue to follow in other swing districts in this fall's congressional elections.

Elsewhere Tuesday, Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Arkansas and South Carolina held primary elections — with most of those states choosing Senate nominees — as did North Dakota, where voters decided to let the University of North Dakota scrap its controversial nickname, the Fighting Sioux.

In Virginia, George Allen brushed aside three conservative Republican rivals in the Virginia primary. Allen's victory set up a November clash with another former Virginia governor, Democrat Tim Kaine, in a campaign closely tied to the presidential race in a state both parties consider vital for victory.

In North Dakota, Rep. Rick Berg defeated businessman Duane Sand in the state's Republican primary. Berg now faces Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the November race to replace retiring Sen. Kent Conrad. The election is expected to play a critical role in determining which party controls the Senate next year.

The vote concerning the Fighting Sioux nickname came about after the NCAA deemed it hostile and abusive, and placed the university under postseason sanctions. The state's Board of Education is now expected to retire the moniker and American Indian head logo.

In Nevada, Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley easily defeated a slate of political unknowns in their respective primaries. Their fall race also will be one of the most competitive in the country.

In Maine, state Sen. Cynthia Dill won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers won the GOP nomination.

The front-runner, former two-term Gov. Angus King, wasn't on the ballot because he's running as an independent.

No statewide races were part of the Arkansas and South Carolina primaries.

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