Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords resigned today from her job representing Congressional District 8 in the State of Arizona. She cast her last vote this morning in the U.S.House on a bipartisan bill she introduced with Congressman Jeff Flake to impose tougher penalties on drug smugglers, and last night she listened to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
She had served n the U.S. Congress since January 2007, was re-elected twice. As most of you know by now she was shot in Tucson once in the head at close range by mass shooter Jared Lee Loughner on January 8, 2011, over a year ago. She has been recovering in Houston, Texas where her astronaut husband Capt.(ret.) Mark Kelly lives, sharing custody of his two daughters from his previous marriage.
She faced three tough campaigns for her CD 8 race in the general elections: against former LD 30 House Rep. Randy Graf in 2006, former LD 30 State Senate President Tim Bee in 2008, and newcomer Jesse Kelly in 2010. And she also had a contentious Democratic primary race in 2006 against former TV newscaster Patty Weiss, and four others (William Johnson, Jeff Latas, Alex Rodriguez, Francine Shacter). She ran unopposed in the Democratic CD 8 primaries of 2008 and 2010.
Her closest race margin was with Kelly in November, 2010 (winning by 4,156 votes). Read my previous blog about that race “How did Giffords win?” (click here).
Gabby served one and a half terms in the Arizona State Senate (2003 to 2005), and also one term in the State House (2001 – 2003), representing mid-town Tucson in LD 28, prior to Congress. I knew her then as well, and worked as a volunteer on her Congressional campaigns for 2006 and 2008. So I knew Gabby professionally through the Pima County Democratic Party and as a campaign volunteer, and later as I covered her campaign for the TucsonCitizen.com in 2010. And of course I knew the late Gabe Zimmerman, who worked as a field organizer on her first 2006 campaign and later as the constituent outreach director in her Tucson District Office. (30 year old Zimmerman was killed in the Tucson Tragedy mass shooting on 1/8/11).
There is a bumper sticker “Gabrielle Giffords continues to inspire” which was placed at the Tucson three impromptu memorials that sprang up after the shooting. It was a testament of her courage and inspirational fight back to health, which is still ongoing (and the reason for her resignation). Because the Glock 9mm bullet entered the left side of her brain, Gabby’s right leg, right arm/hand, and speech were affected by the injury, and she now is working in rehab with her aphasia –speech & language difficulties — and reduced physical mobility. Prior to this shooting, Gabby was an avid hiker, and rode horses, a bicycle, and a motorcycle.
But I know what a healthy, friendly, strong-willed individual she was as a politician and community activist, and I know she will work tirelessly now at age 41 to recover fully from her injury. She took a bullet in the line of duty as a U.S. Congresswoman and should be praised for her courage and resiliency, and hard work for over 10 years as a state & federal legislator.
Good luck Gabby and our prayers are with you as you recuperate, and find a new mission in life.