06/11/2012 12:36 pm ET

Ron Barber, Former Gabrielle Giffords Aide, Leads Rivals In Poll

Ron Barber, a onetime aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is leading the race to fill Giffords' seat ahead of Tuesday's special election, according to a poll released Monday.

Public Policy Polling, a firm affiliated with the Democratic Party, found that Barber is ahead of Jesse Kelly, his Republican rival, 53 percent to 41 percent. Charlie Manolakis, a Green Party candidate, polled at 4 percent.

The poll predicts Democrats will turn out in force in Arizona's 8th district, largely due to the race's special significance.

“Democrats are likely to win this race comfortably tomorrow,” Dean Debnam, PPP's president, said in a release. “But the unusual circumstances of the contest make its relevance to any other contest later this year pretty limited."

Little other polling has been released publicly on the race, but Roll Call reporter Abby Livingston tweeted that internal Democratic polling shows the race is much closer than PPP's results suggested.

Giffords vacated her seat in January, about a year after she was shot in the head by a gunman in Tucson. She joined Barber at a get-out-the vote event Saturday to support him in the race against Kelly, who unsuccessfully challenged Giffords in 2010.

The PPP poll was conducted last weekend by automated phone calls and surveyed 1,058 likely voters. The poll has a 3 percent margin of error.