Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords swept past Republican Tim Bee to secure a second U.S. House term Tuesday night from southern Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.
Against a backdrop of a historic presidential election that drew record turnout across the nation, Giffords led Bee by 55 percent to nearly 43 percent with 73 percent of precincts reporting. Libertarian Paul Davis had 2.4 percent.
Giffords took advantage of a well-financed campaign, the heavy Democratic turnout, the sour climate facing Republicans and her efforts to link Bee to a highly unpopular President Bush to sway voters.
“We ran a great race,” Giffords said. “We focused on the issues. We had thousands of volunteers who dedicated countless hours to the campaign.”
Giffords attributed her win to “talking directly to southern Arizonans about the issues that matter most to them,” and cited working hard to represent the district’s military personnel, trying to solve the nation’s complex immigration problems and “working on solar energy, where I think we can truly dominate.
“The people have elected me to go back to Washington to continue to do the good work on their behalf,” she added.
Giffords said she’s sure that Barack Obama’s momentous presidential victory, which drew a huge Democratic turnout, was a factor in her race.
She added she’s excited about the nation having held a historic election and getting a new administration.
“George W. Bush was not a strong president for us,” Giffords said, adding that the nation’s challenges are great “and these problems are greater than any political affiliation that we have. We have to work together as Americans on the energy crisis, the economy, immigration problems. We have a lot of work to do.”
Political observers have said all those factors, combined with her first-term performance, gave her the edge over Bee, who tried to woo voters by emphasizing his ability to work with Democrats.
Giffords easily beat conservative Republican Randy Graf two years ago, by 54 to 42 percent, to replace retiring 11-term GOP Congressman Jim Kolbe and took a centrist profile in the moderately Republican district.
As a congressional freshman, Giffords patterned her representation after her predecessor, maintaining a high profile by returning to the district most weekends for town halls, meetings, hearings and event appearances.
She frequently took centrist, pro-military and pro-veteran positions favored by many constituents in her district, which has two major military installations. She also backed measures to secure the border and crack down on employers hiring illegal immigrants, both key issues in the district.
Giffords easily outpaced Bee in fundraising — raising $3.1 million to Bee’s $1.4 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also committed money to buying air time for commercials on behalf of Giffords, but pulled out after she complained about a TV ad that she said was inappropriately critical of Bee’s family.
For his part, Bee pointed to his work with Democrats in crafting the state’s latest budget. He also attacked Giffords’ decision to vote for a $700 billion Wall Street bailout package because it contained pork barrel spending.