She nearly died from the gunshot wound to her head, and the severity of the damage to her brain left the extent of her recovery in question. But it was in a clear and strong voice that betrayed only a hint of her ordeal that Giffords announced her decision, in a video posted on her campaign Web site.
“I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice,” she said, looking directly into the camera. The hair that had been severely cropped after the shooting now framed her face in soft curls. “I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”
One last hurrah
Before handing in her resignation to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), Giffords has some unfinished business. She plans to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. And she will finish the meeting that was “interrupted,” her staff said in a statement, by gathering with some of the survivors at a private event in Tucson on Monday.
The announcement came as an emotional blow to many of her friends and supporters, who had hoped she would recover enough to run for reelection or even for the Senate. But it was not entirely unexpected.
For months, her devoted staff shouldered the burdens of her office while she underwent multiple surgeries and intensive therapy in Houston, where her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, lived. Giffords made a remarkable recovery, but with her term ending this year, her constituents wondered whether she would be up to the challenge of running for reelection.
Bill Badger, a retired Army colonel who was injured in the shooting, said he does not begrudge her the decision.
“I fully support her decision to not run again and I understand, because I was shot in the head myself — not as seriously as Gabby — and I know how it changed my priorities and changed my life,” Badger said.
Giffords’s decision means that a special election will be held in the next few months, and despite rumors that her husband might run for her seat, Democratic officials in Washington and Arizona do not expect Kelly or any of Giffords’s top staff members to do so.
Giffords’s southern Arizona district, which is on the Mexican border, is widely considered a swing district, and several candidates of both parties have expressed interest in running for the seat.
In the end, Giffords did what was in her best interests and those of her constituents, said Fred DuVal, a friend and Democratic operative from Phoenix.