Gabrielle Giffords

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Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords official portrait.jpg
Congressional portrait, March 2010
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 25, 2012
Preceded by Jim Kolbe
Succeeded by Ron Barber
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 28th district
In office
January 8, 2003 – December 1, 2005
Preceded by Randall Gnant
Succeeded by Paula Aboud
Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 13th district
In office
January 1, 2001 – January 8, 2003
Preceded by Andy Nichols
Succeeded by Steve Gallardo
Personal details
Born Gabrielle Dee Giffords
(1970-06-08) June 8, 1970 (age 44)
Tucson, Arizona
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mark E. Kelly
Residence Tucson, Arizona
Alma mater Cornell University (M.U.P.)
Scripps College (B.A.)
Profession Politician; Businesswoman
Religion Reform Judaism
Signature Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Dee "Gabby" Giffords (born June 8, 1970) is a retired American politician. As a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, she represented Arizona's 8th congressional district from 2007 until her resignation on January 25, 2012, having been elected to Congress three times. She is the third woman in Arizona's history to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Considered a "Blue Dog" Democrat,[1] her focus on health care reform and illegal immigration were sources of attention for those opposed to her candidacy and made her a recipient of criticism from various conservative groups. She has described herself as a "former Republican".[2]

Giffords is a native of Tucson, Arizona, and a graduate of Scripps College and Cornell University. Prior to her election to the United States Congress, Giffords served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2001 until 2003 and the Arizona State Senate from 2003 until 2005, when she resigned to run for the seat held by then-Congressman Jim Kolbe. She also worked as an associate for regional economic development in New York City and as CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses, a local automotive chain owned by her grandfather. She is married to former astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Mark E. Kelly.

On January 8, 2011, a week into her third term, Giffords was a victim of a shooting near Tucson,[3][4] which was reported to be an assassination attempt on her,[5][6] at a supermarket where she was meeting publicly with constituents.[5] She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head;[7][8] thirteen people were injured and six others were killed in the shooting, among them federal judge John Roll.[4] Giffords was later brought to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas, where she recovered some of her ability to walk, speak, read and write. On May 16, 2011, Giffords traveled to Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of STS-134, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was commanded by her husband Mark Kelly.

On January 22, 2012, Giffords announced that she would be resigning from her congressional seat in order to concentrate on recovering from her wounds, but promised to return to public service in the future.[9] She appeared on the floor of the House on January 25, 2012, where she formally submitted her resignation to a standing ovation and accolades from her colleagues and the leadership of the House.[10]

Early life, education, and business career

Giffords was born in Tucson, Arizona, to Gloria Kay (née Fraser) and Spencer J. Giffords. She was raised in a mixed religious environment by her Jewish father and Christian Science-practicing mother. Her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, was a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania who changed his name to Giffords to avoid anti-Semitism.[11] Through her father, Giffords is a second cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow.[12] Giffords has identified herself solely with Judaism since 2001, belonging to Congregation Chaverim, a Reform synagogue, in Tucson.[13][14] She is Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman.[15][16]

Giffords graduated from Tucson's University High School. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Latin American History from Scripps College in California in 1993;[17] then spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico;[18] and earned a Master's degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University in 1996, focussing her studies there on Mexican-American relations.[17] She is a former Girl Scout.

Giffords worked as an associate for regional economic development at Price Waterhouse in New York City. In 1996, she became president and CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses, a local chain of auto service centers founded by her grandfather. The business was sold to Goodyear Tire in 2000. At the time of the sale, she commented on the difficulties local businesses face when competing against large national firms.[19]

Arizona legislature

Elections

Giffords was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives and served from 2001 to 2003. She was elected to the Arizona Senate in the fall of 2002, and at the time was the youngest woman elected to that body. She took office in January 2003 and was re-elected in 2004. She resigned from the Arizona Senate on December 1, 2005, in preparation for her congressional campaign.

Tenure

In early 2005, Giffords observed that "the 2004 election took its toll on our bipartisan coalition" and that as a result "a number of significant problems will receive far less attention than they deserve." She highlighted among these, the lack of high-paying jobs or necessary infrastructure, rapid growth, and inward migration that threatened the environment and "strain[ed] [...] education, health care, and transportation" and unresolved problems such as Students First; Arnold v. Sarn; repayments due under Ladewig v. Arizona; the No Child Left Behind mandate; low educational achievement; health care costs; and the demands of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. She noted that Arizona was not alone in facing such challenges.[20]

Expanding health care access was an issue of interest for Giffords when she served in the legislature. She also pushed for bills related to mental health and was named by the Mental Health Association of Arizona as the 2004 Legislator of the Year. Giffords also earned the Sierra Club's Most Valuable Player award.[21]

In the legislature, Giffords worked on the bipartisan Children's Caucus, which sought to improve education and health care for Arizona's children. Critics of this plan argued that it amounted to taxpayer-funded daycare. She worked with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to promote all-day kindergarten. Giffords supported raising more money for schools "through sponsorship of supplemental state aid through bonds and tax credits that could be used for school supplies." She was awarded Arizona Family Literacy's Outstanding Legislator for 2003.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives

Giffords in 2008

Elections

2006

Giffords launched her first candidacy for the U.S. Congress on January 24, 2006. The campaign received national attention early on as a likely pick-up for the Democratic Party. Prominent Democrats endorsed Giffords, including Tom Daschle, Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Bill Clinton. EMILY's List endorsed Giffords early in the campaign cycle.[23] The Sierra Club and the Arizona Education Association also endorsed her.[24] On September 12, 2006, Giffords won her party's nomination in the primary election.

Her Republican opponent in the general election was Randy Graf, a conservative former state senator known for his enforcement-only position on immigration and illegal aliens. Graf had run against Jim Kolbe in the 2004 GOP primary and had announced his candidacy in 2006 before Kolbe announced his retirement. The Republican establishment was somewhat cool toward Graf, believing he might be too conservative for the district, and the national GOP took the unusual step of endorsing one of the more moderate candidates in the primary. Graf won anyway, helped by a split in the Republican moderate vote between two candidates.

Not long after the primary, Congressional Quarterly changed its rating of the race to "Leans Democrat." By late September, the national GOP had pulled most of its funding, effectively conceding the seat to Giffords. Giffords won the race on November 7, 2006, with 54 percent of the vote. Graf received 42 percent. The rest of the vote went to minor candidates. Giffords' victory was portrayed as evidence that Americans are accepting towards comprehensive immigration reform.[25]

2008

In 2008, Giffords was elected to a second term. Republican Tim Bee, a childhood classmate and former colleague in the Arizona State Senate, ran against her. Bee was then the Arizona State Senate President and was considered a strong challenger in this race. Despite the presence of McCain atop the ticket as the Republican presidential candidate, Giffords was reelected with 56.20 percent of the vote to Bee's 41.45 percent.[26]

2010
Giffords during a press conference following her 2010 election victory

On November 5, 2010, Giffords was declared the victor after a close race against Republican Jesse Kelly.[27] Kelly, an Iraq War veteran (and not related to Mark Kelly), was listed as a top-ten Tea Party candidate to watch by Politico, and described by azcentral.com as highly conservative even compared to Sarah Palin.[28] Giffords had been targeted for defeat by Sarah Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC.[29]

Giffords participated in the reading of the United States Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives on January 6, 2011; she read the First Amendment.[30][31]

Tenure

Following the November 2006 election, Giffords was sworn in as a congresswoman on January 3, 2007. She was the third woman in Arizona's history to be elected to serve in the U.S. Congress. In her inaugural speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Giffords advocated a comprehensive immigration reform package, including modern technology to secure the border, more border patrol agents, tough employer sanctions for businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and a guest-worker program.[32] In her first month in office, Giffords voted in favor of increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research;[33] raising the minimum wage;[34] endorsing the 9/11 Commission recommendations;[34] new rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical issues;[35] and the repeal of $14 billion of subsidies to big oil companies, in favor of renewable energy subsidies and the founding of the Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve.[34]

During the 2007 session of Congress, Giffords introduced a bill (H.R. 1441)[36] that forbids the sale of F-14 aircraft parts on the open market.[37] Giffords advocated for a national day of recognition for cowboys as one of her first actions.[38] She voted for the contentious May 2007 Iraq Emergency Supplemental Spending bill, saying, "I cannot, in good conscience, allow the military to run out of money while American servicemen and women are being attacked every day".[39] She has also been a Girl Scout supporter for many years. On April 21, 2007, Giffords hosted her third "Congress on Your Corner" in Tucson, Arizona, and kicked things off by speaking to the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, Sahuaro Council.

Giffords was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition. She was a co-founder of the Congressional Motorcycle Safety Caucus. Until her husband's retirement, she was the only member of the U.S. Congress whose spouse was an active duty member of the U.S. military.[1] She is also known as a strong proponent of solar energy as well as for her work to secure the Mexico–United States border.[40][41]

Committee assignments

Attempted assassination

Roadside sign at the scene of the shooting

On January 8, 2011, Giffords was shot in the head[3] outside a Safeway grocery store in Casas Adobes, Arizona, a suburban area northwest of Tucson, during her first "Congress on Your Corner" gathering of the year. A man ran up to the crowd and began firing,[42] hitting 19 people,[43] killing six;[44] a 20th person was injured at the scene, but not by gunfire.[3][43]

The suspect, identified as Jared Lee Loughner,[45] was detained by bystanders until he was taken into police custody.[46] Federal officials charged Loughner on the next day with killing federal government employees, attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, and attempting to kill federal employees.[47][48][49]

Giffords' intern, Daniel Hernandez Jr., provided first-aid assistance to her immediately after she was wounded and is credited with saving her life.[50][51][52] She was promptly evacuated to the University Medical Center of Tucson in critical condition,[3][53] though she was still conscious and "following commands" at the time.[3][54]

On the same day, doctors performed emergency surgery to extract skull fragments and a small amount of necrotic tissue from her brain.[3][55] The bullet passed through Giffords' head without crossing the midline of the brain, where the most critical injuries typically result.[3] Part of her skull was removed to avoid further damage to the brain from pressure caused by swelling.[3][54] Doctors who first treated Giffords said the bullet entered the back of her head and exited through the front of her skull, but physicians later concluded that it had traveled in the opposite direction.[56]

Upon receiving a call from a staffer about Giffords' injury, husband Mark Kelly and his daughters flew in a friend's aircraft directly from Houston to Tucson.[57][58]

Recovery

Giffords initially was placed in an induced coma to allow her brain to rest. She was able to respond to simple commands when periodically awakened, but was unable to speak as she was on a ventilator.[59] Nancy Pelosi said Giffords' husband Mark Kelly acknowledged that there is a "rough road ahead" for his wife's recovery, but was encouraged by her responsiveness,[60] which included the ability to signal with her hand and move both arms.[61] U.S. Army neurologist Geoffrey Ling of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, was sent to Tucson to consult on Giffords' condition. Ling stated, "Her prognosis for maintaining the function that she has is very good. It's over 50 percent."[62] On January 11, neurosurgeon G. Michael Lemole Jr. said that Giffords' sedation had been reduced and that she could breathe on her own.[63] On January 12, President Barack Obama visited Giffords at the medical center and publicly stated in an evening memorial ceremony that she had "opened her eyes for the first time" that day.[64] Shortly after the shootings, some questions were raised by the media as to whether Giffords could be removed from office under a state law that allows a public office to be declared vacant if the officeholder is absent for three months, but a spokesperson for the Arizona secretary of state said the statute "doesn't apply to federal offices" and is, therefore, not relevant.[65]

As Giffords' status improved, by mid-January she began simple physical therapy,[66] including sitting up with the assistance of hospital staff and moving her legs upon command.[58] On January 15, surgeons performed a tracheotomy, replacing the ventilator tube with a smaller one inserted through Giffords' throat to assist independent breathing.[67][68] Ophthalmologist Lynn Polonski surgically repaired Giffords' damaged eye socket,[69] with additional reconstructive surgery to follow.[70] Giffords' condition improved from "critical" to "serious" on January 17,[71] and to "good" on January 25.[72] She was transferred on January 21 to the Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston, Texas, where she subsequently moved to the TIRR Memorial Hermann to undergo a program of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.[72][73] Medical experts' initial assessment in January was that Giffords' recovery could take from several months to more than one year.[74] Upon her arrival in Houston, her doctors were optimistic, saying she has "great rehabilitation potential".[75]

On March 12, 2011, Giffords' husband informed her that six other people had been killed in the attack on her, but he did not identify who they were until months later.[76] In late April, Giffords' doctors reported that her physical, cognitive, and language production abilities had improved significantly, placing her in the top 5 percent of patients recovering from similar injuries.[77] She was walking under supervision with perfect control of her left arm and leg, and able to write with her left hand. She was able to read and understand, and spoke in short phrases. With longer efforts, she was able to produce more complex sentences.[77]

From early in her recovery, Giffords' husband had expressed confidence that she would be able to travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch of his final Space Shuttle mission, STS-134, which was originally scheduled for April 2011.[78] On April 25, Giffords' doctors gave her medical clearance to travel to Florida for the launch, originally scheduled for April 29, and she went to Florida where she was to watch from a private family area, without any public appearance or photography. The launch of STS-134 was delayed due to mechanical problems, and the Giffords returned to Houston after meeting with President Obama, who had also planned to see the launch, with his family, at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).[79][80] After continuing her rehabilitation therapy in Houston,[81][82] Giffords returned to KSC for her husband's launch on May 16, 2011. Kelly wore his wife's wedding ring into space, which she had exchanged for his.[83]

August 1, 2011: Giffords' first appearance in the House of Representatives since her attempted assassination

Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery on May 18, 2011, to replace part of her skull that had been removed in January to permit her brain to swell after the gunshot to her head. Surgeons replaced the bone, using tiny screws, with a piece of molded hard plastic; they expect that her skull will eventually fuse with the plastic's porous material. At that point, Giffords no longer needed to wear the helmet that she had been wearing to protect her brain from further injury.[84][85] On June 9, 2011, Giffords' aide Pia Carusone announced that while Giffords' comprehension appeared to be "close to normal, if not normal," she was not yet using complete sentences.[86] On June 12, two photos of Giffords taken on May 17 were released, the first since the shooting.[87] On June 15, Giffords was released from the hospital to return home, where she continued speech, music, physical and occupational therapy.[88]

On August 1, she made her first public appearance on the House floor to vote in favor of raising the debt limit ceiling. She was met with a standing ovation and accolades from her fellow members of Congress.[89] A Giffords spokesman, Mark Kimble, stated in August 2011 that the congresswoman is now walking without a cane and is writing left-handed, as she does not have full use of her right side.[90] On October 6, Giffords traveled to Washington for her husband's retirement ceremony, where she presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross medal. She then returned to her husband's Texas home.[91] On October 25, she travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, for intensive rehabilitation treatments, ending November 4.[92] In Kelly's memoir, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, released in November 2011, he reported that Giffords would return to Congress, although she continues to struggle with language and has lost fifty percent of her vision in both eyes.[76]

On September 6, 2012, Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance at that evening's meeting of the Democratic National Convention.[93]

Giffords still has difficulty speaking and walking, and her right arm is paralyzed. She continues to undergo speech and physical therapy.[94]

On January 8, 2014, Giffords marked the 3-year anniversary of the shooting by going skydiving. The jump garnered a lot of support. Giffords said on an interview with the Today show, “Oh, wonderful sky. Gorgeous mountain. Blue skies. I like a lot. A lot of fun. Peaceful, so peaceful.”[95][96]

Resignation from Congress

On January 22, 2012, Giffords announced in a video statement that she intended to resign her seat so that she could continue to focus on her recovery.[97] She attended President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address on January 24, and formally submitted her resignation on January 25. Appearing on the floor of the House, after the last bill she sponsored was brought to a vote and unanimously passed, Giffords was lauded by members of Congress and the majority and minority leaders who spoke in tribute to her strength and accomplishment in an unusual farewell ceremony. Her letter of resignation was read on her behalf by her close friend and fellow Democratic representative, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.[98]

Electoral history

Arizona's 8th Congressional District House Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Gabrielle Giffords 137,655 54.26%
Republican Randy Graf 106,790 42.09%
Libertarian David F. Nolan 4,849 1.91%
Independent Jay Quick 4,408 1.74%
Arizona's 8th Congressional District House Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Gabrielle Giffords 179,629 54.72% +0.46%
Republican Tim Bee 140,553 42.82% +0.73%
Libertarian Paul Davis 8,081 2.46% +0.55%
Arizona's 8th Congressional District House Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Gabrielle Giffords 138,280 48.76% −5.96%
Republican Jesse Kelly 134,124 47.30% +4.48%
Libertarian Steven Stoltz 11,174 3.94% +1.48%

Political positions

Economy

Giffords voted against President Bush's Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.[38] Giffords was one of 60 lawmakers who voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 during its first House vote before switching to a yes vote in its second House vote,[99] and she voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[100]

In August 2011 she voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling.[89]

Education

Giffords argues that Americans are competing on a global level and that this competition starts in the classroom. She is a critic of the No Child Left Behind law, viewing it as an unfunded federal mandate. She supports public schools and their improved efficiency.[101]

Energy

Giffords strongly supports renewable energy, in particular solar energy, as a top public policy priority.[102]

In September 2007, she published a report titled: The Community Solar Energy Initiative, Solar Energy in Southern Arizona, observing that Arizona has enough sunshine to power the entire United States. It reviews current energy usage and discusses how to increase the production of solar electricity.[103] On August 1, 2008, she wrote to congressional leaders regarding tax credits that were set to expire, saying that failure to extend the scheme would be extremely harmful to the renewable energy industry "just as it is beginning to take off."[104]

Guns

In 2008 Giffords opposed Washington D.C. prohibitions on possession of handguns in the home and having usable firearms there, signing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to support its overturn.[105]

Immigration and border security

Representative Giffords speaking with a military officer in July 2010

Arizona's 8th Congressional District is one of ten in the country bordering Mexico. Giffords has stated that the Arizona SB 1070 legislation is a "clear calling that the federal government needs to do a better job"[106] and says that she hopes the legislation acts as a wake-up call to the federal government. However, she stopped short of supporting the law itself, saying that it "does nothing to secure our border" and that it "stands in direct contradiction to our past and, as a result, threatens our future." She also claimed that SB1070 kept Arizona from attracting students and businesses.[107]

On August 31, 2010, Giffords praised the arrival of National Guard troops on the border: "Arizonans have waited a long time for the deployment of the National Guard in our state. Their arrival represents a renewed national commitment to protecting our border communities from drug cartels and smugglers."[108]

Giffords worked to secure passage of the August 2010 bill to fund more Border Patrol agents and surveillance technology for Arizona's border with Mexico. The legislation passed the House of Representatives only to be sent back by the U.S. Senate with reduced funding. Ultimately a $600-million bill was passed and signed into law. The bill was over $100 million less than Giffords fought for, but she said, "This funding signals a stronger federal commitment to protect those Americans who live and work near the border."[109]

In 2008, Giffords introduced legislation that would have increased the cap on the H-1B visa from 65,000 per year to 130,000 per year.[110] If that were not sufficient, according to her legislation, the cap would have been increased to 180,000 per year.[111] The bill would have allowed, at most, 50% of employees at any given company with at least 50 employees to be H-1B guest workers.[112] Giffords said the bill would help high-tech companies in southern Arizona, some of which rely on H1-B employees.[112] However, Giffords' bill was never voted on by the House of Representatives.

Advocate for gun control

In January 2013, Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly started a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions. The mission of the organization is to promote solutions with elected officials and the general public. The couple supports the Second Amendment while promoting responsible gun ownership and “keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people like criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill.”[113]

Other proposals from Giffords and Kelly include limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines, limiting the sale of assault weapons, and stopping gun trafficking.

Giffords was a surprise witness at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence on January 30, 2013.[114] In a halting voice, she called for Congress to pass tougher laws on guns, saying "too many children are dying." Giffords is right-handed; her speech therapist had to write out her statement for her since her right arm was paralyzed in the shooting.[94]

Personal life

Giffords with husband Mark E. Kelly

Giffords married U.S. Navy Captain and NASA astronaut Mark E. Kelly on November 10, 2007. Kelly was the Space Shuttle's pilot on the STS-108 and STS-121 missions, and was the commander of STS-124 and STS-134.[115]

Giffords is a former member of the Arizona regional board of the Anti-Defamation League.[116] After Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, Giffords spent time as a volunteer in Houston, Texas, in relief efforts for hurricane victims. She wrote about her experience in the Tucson Citizen.[117]

Giffords is an avid reader, and was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition on July 9, 2006, talking about her love of books.[118] She was periodically interviewed in 2007 together with Illinois Republican Peter Roskam on NPR's All Things Considered.[119] The series focused on their experiences as freshman members of the 110th Congress.[120]

A joint memoir by Giffords and Kelly, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, with co-author Jeffrey Zaslow, was published on November 15, 2011.[121][122] Giffords and Kelly were interviewed by ABC's Diane Sawyer in their first joint interview since the shooting, which aired on a special edition of 20/20 on November 14, 2011, in conjunction with the book's publication.[123]

Naming honors

It was announced by United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, on February 10, 2012, that the next U.S. Navy littoral combat ship will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10).[124] This raised some controversy as Navy ships have often been named after people who have served or are intimately connected to the sea services.[125] In response, some commentators have noted that several ships in the U.S. Navy, including the USS Henry M. Jackson, USS Carl Vinson, USS John C. Stennis, USS Ronald Reagan, and USS George Bush were named for prominent politicians who were still alive at the time of the naming, and that the still-active Carl Vinson was named for a Congressman responsible for barring women from combat roles in the Navy for nearly 50 years.[126][127]

See also


References

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External links

Arizona Senate
Preceded by
Randall Gnant
Arizona State Senator from the 28th District
2003–2006
Succeeded by
Paula Aboud
Arizona House of Representatives
Preceded by
Andy Nichols
Arizona State Representative from the 13th District
2001–2003
Succeeded by
Steve Gallardo
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Kolbe
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th congressional district

2007–2012
Succeeded by
Ron Barber