(CNN) - On the eve of the Arizona special election to replace Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic candidate Ron Barber reaffirmed his support for President Barack Obama on Monday, despite distancing himself from the president throughout much of the campaign.
"When it comes to the November election, I will support the president. I will vote for him, because quite clearly his policies will benefit the middle class much more than his opponent’s," Barber said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
A former Giffords aide, Barber was critically injured during last year's mass shooting that killed six and injured 13 others, including Giffords, who received a gunshot wound to the head. She resigned in January, about one year after the shooting.
In Tuesday's election–the winner of which will finish the remainder of Giffords' term this year–Barber faces Republican opponent Jesse Kelly, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who challenged Giffords in 2010 but came up 4,000 votes short.
The 8th Congressional District covers Tucson and parts of Southeast Arizona. Due to the district's largely Republican leanings, Democrats tend to veer more toward the middle while campaigning.
Barber, himself, faced pushback after declining to answer whether he would vote for the president during a debate earlier this cycle. His aides soon clarified and said the candidate would support the president.
However, Barber on Monday repeatedly referred to the criticism as a diversion driven by his Republican rival.
"I think that's a distraction that my opponent has tried to use to move us away from what's really important to the people of Arizona," he said.
While special elections during the summer generally drum up low turnout, the Arizona race has gained high-profile status, given the attention surrounding Giffords and because the race marks the final Congressional election prior to November.
Little polling has been done, but political observers expect it to be a tight finish between Barber and Kelly.
Sitting alongside Barber, Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, also weighed in on the race Monday, saying the congresswoman personally requested that Barber run for the office.
"At the end of the day, Gaby turned to Ron and basically asked Ron to do this," Kelly said. "It was absolutely the right decision."
Giffords and her husband, who both now live in Texas for her recovery, traveled to Arizona this weekend to campaign for Barber.
- CNN's Susanna Capelouto contributed to this report.