By Jazmine Woodberry
TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabrielle Giffords who was wounded alongside her in a deadly 2011 shooting, claimed victory on Saturday after edging Republican Martha McSally to win a full term in Congress.
Barber, 67, who won a special election in June to finish out Giffords' term, was running to represent southeast Arizona in the state's redrawn 2nd Congressional District. He said McSally called him in the morning to concede the razor-close race.
The contest was too close to call on election night on November 6 and officials have since counted tens of thousands of provisional ballots cast in the race, as the lead swung back and forth between the two candidates.
Barber had a 1,402-vote lead as of Friday night and he claimed victory as the last ballots were being counted. More than 285,000 ballots were cast in the race.
"It's been a long wait, but here we are," Barber told reporters on Saturday. "Ultimately, people saw a difference between us about the issues that are important."
A representative for McSally could not be reached for comment.
On January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents. Six people were killed in the shooting spree, and Giffords was wounded with a shot to the head. Barber was among 12 other people wounded.
Loughner, who had a history of psychiatric disorders, pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced on November 8 to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Barber was the front-runner going into the race. Early votes and an endorsement from Giffords bolstered his campaign. McSally, 46, a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot, emerged on election night with a lead that put her thousands of votes ahead.
That lead evaporated as the final ballots were counted.
The Republicans retained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 6 election.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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