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Will appearances by Gabrielle Giffords save Arizona seat for Dems?

Gabrielle Gifford is helping the former director of her district office, Democrat Ron Barber, in his race to fill her Arizona seat in Congress. His Republican opponent is Jesse Kelly.

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Barber also is trying to convince voters that he understands their concerns. He frequently talks about building up the solar industry and the need to cut taxes, but only for the middle class. While Kelly has made it clear he would not support any income tax increases, Barber has said the wealthy need to "pay their fair share."

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Immigration is still an important issue. Kelly wants a double-layer fence built along the district's border with Mexico. Barber is skeptical the fence would work on the district's rugged terrain. He has called for more manpower, horse patrols and the use of drones.

The Tucson region is home to a growing population of retirees who rely on Medicare and Social Security. Kelly said in 2010 that privatizing the programs was a "must." He said he would protect Social Security for current seniors but the program needed to be "phased out." Giffords assailed his comments with great effect. Democratic groups have employed a similar game plan this election.

"They're taking snippets from video out of context," said Ellinwood. But Kelly has dialed back his rhetoric on Medicare and Social Security while still saying future Social Security participants should get a chance to opt out of the program.

Both parties' national organizations have invested in the race. A win will give the victor a chance to claim momentum five months before November. A loss for Democrats would add to the difficulty of gaining the 25 seats they need to take control of the House. Republicans now hold a 240-192 advantage with three vacancies, including Giffords' seat.

Tuesday's victory will be only a temporary one. Both candidates are promising to run for a full term in the fall, setting up a possible November rematch in a newly redrawn district that is friendlier to Democrats.

Senate primaries in four states are expected to set up competitive races in November, which will help determine which party controls the Senate next year:

—Former Sen. George Allen is the heavy favorite to win Virginia's Republican Senate primary, which includes three other candidates. The winner takes on Democrat Tim Kaine.

—Six Republicans and four Democrats are running to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe in Maine. The front-runner, former Gov. Angus King, isn't on the ballot because he's running as an independent.

—Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley each are expected to prevail with ease against a slate of unknowns in Nevada. Their fall race would be one of the most competitive in the country.

—In North Dakota, Rep. Rick Berg and businessman Duane Sand are vying for the Republican nomination in the race to replace retiring Sen. Kent Conrad. Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is running unopposed.

In South Carolina, most of the interest is in the new 7th District in the northeastern corner of the state. Nine Republicans and four Democrats are running for the new House seat.

IN PICTURES: Gabrielle Giffords, political survivor

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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