Barber decries state priorities
Ron Barber, a victim of the shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, and Gabrielle Giffords’ former district director, jumped into the special election for Giffords’ seat two weeks ago with the intention of prioritizing education.
He initially had no intention of running for office, he said, even after being asked by both Republicans and Democrats to run.
“But Gabby asked me to (run) and that kind of got me thinking,” Barber said. “The decision wasn’t easy to reach … but in the end it actually was the only thing I felt I could do.”
During a discussion with the UA Young Democrats club on Thursday, Barber shared his opinion on issues such as immigration and unemployment, specifically veteran unemployment, in addition to the importance of job creation in biosciences, technology and the solar energy industry. He also discussed higher education and the Arizona Legislature’s attitude toward it.
Students listen to Ron Barber, the democrat many see taking Gabrielle Giffords place in Congress, at Espresso Art on Thursday 23 February. Ron Barber was shot during the November 8 tradgedy that killed six and wounded 12. Keith Hickman-Perfetti/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
“This Legislature has decided that education doesn’t matter, be it K-12 or higher education. It’s real clear that that’s not a priority,” Barber said. “Basically I think this Legislature, if it had its way, would not have any investment in education or anything else except arresting people and locking them up because that’s what they believe, by and large, is the only role in government.”
Barber said he opposes tuition hikes and believes the government should be invested in education.
It’s “wrong to put the budget balancing on the backs of students and their families,” he said, adding that the Legislature also does not prioritize health and human services, mental health services and environmental responsibility.
Barber described the complications and fears brought by the drug cartels in Mexico, making U.S. immigration more difficult. He believes the government needs to take control of the border and make it safer, then find ways to legalize guest worker programs and the Dream Act, a piece of legislation that would qualify undocumented youth for a conditional path to citizenship in six years.
“The border, which used to be a free and open space, is now a fearful place … and they (ranchers living on the border) are really concerned,” Barber said. “We see the effects of drug running and all that and we all hear about the impact of illegal migration but if you’re living on the border … it’s something else.”
Though the UA area would not be represented by Barber if he were elected, the university would influence Southern Arizona, including the district Barber would represent, which covers mostly East Tucson.
Erik Lundstrom, president of the Young Democrats, said he knew the club had to help Democratic candidates campaign for the special election. When he heard Barber was running, he called Barber’s campaign manager. Lundstrom said he was pleased that Barber agreed to a visit.
“He is obviously very knowledgeable and he has an opinion too,” Lundstrom said. “A lot of the time, they (candidates) come and tell us what we want to hear. He told us what he thought, which I really liked.”