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Democrat Wins Ariz. Test Of 2012 Themes; 'Fighting Sioux' Retired In N.D.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left, celebrates with Ron Barber after he won Tuesday's special election in Arizona to serve the remaining seven months of her term. Like Giffords, Barber is a Democrat. He's also a former Giffords aide.
Ross D. Franklin
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left, celebrates with Ron Barber after he won Tuesday's special election in Arizona to serve the remaining seven months of her term. Like Giffords, Barber is a Democrat. He's also a former Giffords aide.

In a race seen as "a testing ground for Democratic and Republican messages" that will be used from now through Nov. 6, Democrat Ron Barber won Tuesday's special election in Arizona to fill the remaining seven months of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' term.

And in one of Tuesday's other most-watched votes, North Dakotans agreed that "it's time to retire University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname."

Some highlights and notes about Tuesday's results:

-- NPR's Ted Robbins reports from Arizona that the special election "was not as close as many expected. In his first try for public office, Barber beat his opponent by almost seven points. ... Voters apparently didn't buy the strategy of Barber's Republican opponent, Tea Party favorite Jesse Kelly, who with the help of the national GOP tried to tie Barber to President Obama."

Giffords, you'll recall, was shot and seriously wounded during a January 2011 shooting rampage at an event she was hosting in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 — including Barber — were injured. Giffords announced this past January that she would give up her seat.

As the Arizona Republic writes, the Arizona race became a testing ground for the major parties' themes as:

"Kelly promoted a strict diet of lower taxes, growing jobs and reducing gas prices by increasing American energy production. Republican campaign advertising worked to tie Barber to the unpopular policies of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, such as the health-care plan.

"Democrats, on the other hand, hammered Kelly on statements about privatizing Social Security, phasing out Medicare and opposing any corporate income tax. Barber called Kelly too 'extreme' for the district and promised to embrace bipartisanship, touting moderate Republican supporters and distancing himself from Obama."

-- In North Dakota, as The Bismarck Tribune reports, "with 97 percent of precincts reporting, more than 67 percent of voters had voted yes on Measure 4, rejecting this latest effort by [Fighting Sioux] nickname supporters to preserve the moniker. ... With its passage, Measure 4 repeals Senate Bill 2370, which was passed during the Legislature's November 2011 special session. The bill repealed Section 15-10-46 of North Dakota Century Code, which the Legislature passed in spring 2011. Section 15-10-46 required UND to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo."

As NPR's Cheryl Corley has reported, "in 2005, the [NCAA] called Native American mascots and nicknames used by 18 schools 'hostile and abusive.' To keep the names, the NCAA told schools, the schools had to get permission from the tribes their sports teams were named after. Otherwise, the teams would be sanctioned; they would not be able to use any of the Native American imagery during post-season play and they would not be able to host lucrative NCAA championships. ... UND is the last of the 18 schools to come to terms with the NCAA policy." One of two Lakota, or Sioux, tribes had declined to give its OK for use of the nickname.

-- "Elsewhere Tuesday," The Associated Press writes, " Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Arkansas and South Carolina held primary elections — with most of those states choosing Senate nominees. ... In Virginia, former Sen. George Allen brushed aside three rivals in the Republican Senate primary. Allen's victory set up a November clash with another former Virginia governor, Democrat Tim Kaine. ...

"In Nevada, Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley easily defeated a slate of political unknowns in their respective primaries. ... 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."

(For ongoing coverage of the 2012 campaign, check It's All Politics.)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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