ENG: Gabrielle Dee "Gabby" Giffords (born June 8, 1970) is an 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, her stances on health care reform and illegal immigration were sources of attention for those opposed to her candidacy and have made her a recipient of criticism from various conservative groups. She has described herself as a "former Republican".
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, which was reported to be an assassination attempt on her, at a supermarket where she was meeting publicly with constituents. She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head; thirteen people were injured and six others were killed in the shooting, among them federal judge John Roll.
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. 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.
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. She has identified herself solely with Judaism since 2001, belonging to Congregation Chaverim, a Reform synagogue, in Tucson. She is Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman.
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; then spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico; and earned a Master's degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University in 1996, focussing her studies there on Mexican-American relations. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. House of Representatives - 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. The Sierra Club and the Arizona Education Association also endorsed her. 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.
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.
On November 5, 2010, Giffords was declared the victor after a close race against Republican Jesse Kelly. 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. Giffords had been targeted for defeat by Sarah Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC.
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.
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. In her first month in office, Giffords voted in favor of increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research; raising the minimum wage; endorsing the 9/11 Commission recommendations; new rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical issues; 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.
During the 2007 session of Congress, Giffords introduced a bill (H.R. 1441) that forbids the sale of F-14 aircraft parts on the open market. Giffords advocated for a national day of recognition for cowboys as one of her first actions. 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". 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. She is also known as a strong proponent of solar energy as well as for her work to secure the U.S.–Mexico border.
On January 8, 2011, Giffords was shot in the head 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, hitting 19 people of whom six died; a 20th person was injured at the scene, but not by gunfire.
The suspect, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, was detained by bystanders until he was taken into police custody. 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.
Giffords' intern, Daniel Hernandez Jr., provided first-aid assistance to her immediately after she was wounded and is credited with saving her life. She was promptly evacuated to the University Medical Center of Tucson in critical condition, though she was still conscious and "following commands" at the time.
On the same day, doctors performed emergency surgery to extract skull fragments and a small amount of necrotic tissue from her brain. The bullet had passed through Giffords' head without crossing the midline of the brain, where the most critical injuries typically result. Part of her skull was removed to avoid further damage to the brain from pressure caused by swelling. Doctors who first treated Giffords said the bullet had 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.
Upon receiving a call from a staffer about Giffords' injury, husband Mark E. Kelly and his daughters flew in a friend's aircraft directly from Houston to Tucson.
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. 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, which included the ability to signal with her hand and move both arms. 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." On January 11, neurosurgeon G. Michael Lemole Jr. said that Giffords' sedation had been reduced and that she could breathe on her own. 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. 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.
As Giffords' status improved, by mid-January she began simple physical therapy, including sitting up with the assistance of hospital staff and moving her legs upon command. On January 15, surgeons performed a tracheotomy, replacing the ventilator tube with a smaller one inserted through Giffords' throat to assist independent breathing. Ophthalmologist Lynn Polonski surgically repaired Giffords' damaged eye socket, with additional reconstructive surgery to follow. Giffords' condition improved from "critical" to "serious" on January 17, and to "good" on January 25. She was transferred on January 21 to the Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston, Texas, where she subsequently moved to the center's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) to undergo a program of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Medical experts' initial assessment in January was that Giffords' recovery could take from several months to more than one year. Upon her arrival in Houston, her doctors were optimistic, saying she has "great rehabilitation potential".
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. 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. 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.
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. 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). After continuing her rehabilitation therapy in Houston, 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.
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. 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. On June 12, two photos of Giffords taken on May 17 were released, the first since the shooting. On June 15, Giffords was released from the hospital to return home, where she continued speech, music, physical and occupational therapy.
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. 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. 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. On October 25, she travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, for intensive rehabilitation treatments, ending November 4. 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.
On September 6, 2012, Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance at that evening's meeting of the Democratic National Convention.
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. 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.