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Ron Barber, who served as congressional district director in Gabrielle Giffords' District 8, is running to replace her in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barber made the announcement in a statement Thursday morning, saying he wants to continue her legacy. He started as her district director in 2007, when she first took federal office, and is running as a Democrat.

In an interview, Barber said Giffords asked him to run for the remainder of her term.

"I'm happy to have her backing," Barber said.

Barber said he's running to "put politics aside and solve problems," and he wants to balance the federal budget and protect Social Security and Medicare.

Democrat state Rep. Matt Heinz announced he's running for the seat, but made it known he would suspend his campaign and support Barber if Barber decided to run.

Five Republicans are also in the race, and those who turn in enough petitions at the end of the month to qualify for the ballot will compete in an April 17 primary election. Those candidates are state Sen. Frank Antenori, former congressional candidate Jesse Kelly, Tucson sports broadcaster Dave Sitton, civilian military interrogator John Lervold and Air Force pilot Martha McSally.

The general election is scheduled for June 12.

Barber said he is running in Congressional District 8, but isn't ruling out a run in Congressional District 2 in the fall. Rumors about Barber's candidacy have swirled for weeks, since Giffords announced in January she would resign from office and not seek reelection.

The special election to fill the remainder of her term is for Congressional District 8, but the district lines will be redrawn this year to account for population changes during the past decade. Many of the Congressional District 8 residents will be in what is called the new District 2 with slightly different boundaries, and the fall election will be for a full two-year term in that district.

Heinz has said he will seek election in CD2 if Barber runs solely for the rest of the term in CD8.

Barber was one of 13 wounded in the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting that killed six people. He returned to work part-time months later as Giffords' district director. Giffords resigned from her House seat in January, saying she needed to focus on her recover from being shot in the head during the shooting.

Like the former congresswoman, Barber is still recovering from his injuries. After the shooting, Barber and his family started the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding to forge better relationships between members of the community and bring awareness to issues such as bullying and mental health.