Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby’ Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, is doing the right thing, of course, in opting to place politics on the back burner and focus on her health.
Politics is not the most important thing in life, after all, though it can seem so to those in the game. Giffords needs to regain her health and spend time with her husband instead of focusing on an exhausting reelection campaign. In short, Giffords needs to spend time navigating her new reality.
In a video released Sunday, Giffords, 41, said, “I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona I will step down this week.”
To many of us, Giffords became a hero, a symbol of endurance and bravery, after she was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner on Jan. 8, 2011, at a Congress on Your Corner meet-and-greet in front of a Tucson supermarket.
Thirteen people were wounded in the horrific incident. Six people were killed, including Arizona District Court Chief Judge John Roll, one of Giffords’s staffers and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green who, at even such a young age, possessed a keen interest in politics.
On the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation Web site, it says, “Having just been elected to the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School, she was eager to ask her Congresswoman questions concerning the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and what it was like being a politician.”
No wonder Green wanted to meet Giffords.
When Giffords launched onto the national scene in 2006, she was a dazzling addition to the Democratic Party. Emily’s List endorsed Giffords, as did the Sierra Club and the Arizona Education Association. She also had political star power behind her, from Bill Clinton and Janet Napolitano.
In her first congressional race, she knocked out her Republican opponent, Randy Graf, in the general election with 54 percent of the vote to Graf’s 42 percent. In 2008, she beat a new GOP opponent with 56 percent of the vote.
But in 2010, Giffords was in tough political waters.
Giffords, a Blue Dog Democrat, faced a tea party newcomer, Jesse Kelly, an Iraq War veteran who was only 28 at the time. Sarah Palin’s PAC targeted that race by placing a cross hairs motif on her PAC’s map. After the Tucson shootings, Palin took heavy criticism for using a symbol associated with guns.
Giffords barely won with 48.7 percent of the vote to Kelly’s 47.3 percent in the conservative 8th District.
In the video released Sunday, stunning Arizona scenery rolled before Giffords said, “Arizona is my home. It always will be.” Then in true politician style, Giffords left a little teaser for her supporters: “I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.”
It’s exactly what Christina Taylor-Green would have wanted.