• Giffords cheers with Barber at a June 9 event (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)Democrat Ron Barber, Gabrielle Giffords' former district director, won the special election Tuesday to succeed his former boss in Arizona's 8th District, holding the open House seat for his party and earning a leg up in the race for a full term.

    Barber defeated Republican Jesse Kelly, a Marine veteran and Giffords' 2010 challenger, capturing 52 percent of the vote in the Tucson-area district.

    The district leans Republican but remains highly competitive territory, prompting national interest from outside groups as well as party strategists in Washington. Republicans attempted to capitalize on the low approval numbers of both President Barack Obama and his health care law, tying Barber to each, while Barber cast Kelly as an opponent of Social Security.

    "Ron Barber's strong campaign made this a referendum on the Republican plans to drastically cut Medicare and privatize Social Security, while giving massive tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas," said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The Republican plan lost."

    Israel said Democrats plan to focus their campaigns on similar themes this election year.

    Barber is expected to be sworn in soon to represent the open seat, which Giffords vacated in January amid her continued recovery from a January 2011 shooting attack at a town hall event. Barber also sustained injuries in that attack.

    But this isn't the last time Barber and Kelly will be competing.

    Read More »from Barber holds Gabrielle Giffords’ seat for Democrats in Arizona
  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee during its hearing on the Pentagon's 2013 budget. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will also give testimony.

    At the White House, President Barack Obama will host Israeli President Shimon Peres. In the evening, he'll present Peres with America's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, at a dinner in the East Room. Peres was unable to attend a ceremony on May 29, when Obama gave the honor to Madeleine Albright, John Glenn, Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison, John Paul Stevens and Pat Summitt, among others. First lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton will also be at the dinner.

    Read More »from Panetta on Capitol Hill, Obama to honor Israeli president, plus more to watch for Wednesday in politics
  • President Barack Obama (Nick Wass/AP)

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Commerce Secretary John Bryson to "focus his thoughts on his own health, his own family" after suffering a seizure connected to two hit-and-run car accidents over the weekend, the White House said Tuesday. It was their first conversation since Saturday's accidents.

    Bryson announced late Monday that he was going on medical leave and delegating his duties to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank.

    "The President encouraged Secretary Bryson to focus his thoughts on his own health and on his own family. And the President indicated his confidence in Dr. Blank, who is somebody who could lead the Commerce Department in Secretary Bryson's absence," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

    Obama spoke to Bryson by telephone before leaving the White House for a frenetic six-fundraiser dash-for-cash.

    Read More »from Obama urges Commerce Secretary Bryson to focus on family, health

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