PHOENIX — Republicans will have their largest U.S. House majority in 83 years when the new Congress convenes next month, after a recount in Arizona gave the final outstanding race to a Republican challenger.
Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally won a House seat over Democratic incumbent Ron Barber by 167 votes out of nearly 220,000 cast, according to results released Wednesday.
Barber was district director for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when he and the congresswoman were wounded during a political event in Tucson in January 2011. Barber then won a special election to fill out the remainder of Giffords' term after she stepped down in early 2012. He went on to defeat McSally in that year's general election to win a full term in Congress, in a race separated by fewer than 2,500 votes.
Barber said he would not contest the results and had called McSally to congratulate her on her victory.
"I want her to be successful because the people of southern Arizona deserve that," Barber said.
In a statement, McSally said it was time to unite after a long campaign battle.
"There's no getting around that this was an incredibly close and hard-fought race. After what's been a long campaign season, it's time to come together and heal our community," McSally said. "That's why my focus will be on what unites us, not what divides us, such as providing better economic opportunity for our families and ensuring our country and community are kept safe."
Giffords and her husband, retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, congratulated McSally and also reminded her that they are supporters of more gun control, an issue that came up in the campaign when their political action committee ran ads attacking her for not backing a law banning misdemeanor-convicted stalkers from buying guns. The ad was pulled after McSally said she had been a victim of stalking and supported keeping guns out of stalkers' hands.
"While it's no secret that we supported our friend Congressman Ron Barber in this hard-fought race, we are pleased that this campaign included an important and substantive debate on how to reduce gun violence in our communities," their statement said.
McSally, 48, was the first woman to fly in combat for the Air Force. Her victory came in a year that saw the GOP make big gains across the country. The results of the mandatory recount mean Republicans will hold their largest House majority since the administration of President Herbert Hoover, controlling 247 seats to 188 for Democrats.
The 2nd District was the last outstanding congressional race from the Nov. 4 general election.
The Tucson-area district is one of the most competitive in the nation. Giffords narrowly won her 2010 race over a Republican challenger in the months before she was wounded in the shooting that killed six and wounded her, Barber, and 11 others.
Barber was next to her when a gunman opened fire, hitting her in the head and him in the face and leg. Six others died, included federal judge John Roll and Gabe Zimmerman, another Giffords staffer.
Barber said he won't consider whether to run again until after the holidays.
"The bottom line about this experience, it's been the most incredible honor of my life," he said.
McSally led Barber by 161 votes after all ballots were counted last month. But the margin was so small it triggered an automatic recount that added six votes to her margin.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper announced the results in court Wednesday before lawyers for both candidates. There were no objections.
Barber, 69, had fought in several venues to get additional votes counted but was turned away at every effort. Separately, a group of voters tried to get the state Supreme Court to halt the recount because of the computer program used. That too was rejected.
McSally's win gives the GOP a 5-4 advantage in the Arizona congressional delegation.