Rep. Giffords: Public Servant, Centrist, Fighter

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shown in an undated handout image courtesy of the Giffords For Congress website, was in critical condition Sunday after being shot in the head. i i

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shown in an undated handout image courtesy of the Giffords For Congress website, was in critical condition Sunday after being shot in the head. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shown in an undated handout image courtesy of the Giffords For Congress website, was in critical condition Sunday after being shot in the head.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shown in an undated handout image courtesy of the Giffords For Congress website, was in critical condition Sunday after being shot in the head.

AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was holding her first "Congress on Your Corner" event of the year when she was shot and critically injured Saturday.

The events allow constituents the chance for a one-on-one meeting with the Democrat. And, says Don Bivens, head of the state Democratic Party, they are one of the reasons Giffords has been able to win elections in a district that's not Democratic.

Giffords was fresh off a campaign victory — winning her swing district by just 2 percentage points last fall, when dozens of her conservative Democratic colleagues failed.

"People know her. People knows she cares. She knows them," says Bivens, who is a friend of the congresswoman.

That Giffords was attacked in the act of public service made it all the more tragic, President Obama said Saturday.

"Listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors — that is the essence of what our democracy is all about," he said. "That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country."

Gabrielle Giffords: At A Glance

Personal

  • Born: June 8, 1970, in Tucson, Ariz.
  • Family: Married to Mark Kelly, a Navy pilot and astronaut with NASA
  • Home: Tucson
  • Religion: Jewish

Career

  • U.S. House Representative, elected 2006
  • State senator, Arizona, 2002-05
  • State representative, Arizona, 2000-02
  • CEO El Campo Tire, 1997-00
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers, 1996-97

Education

  • Scripps College, B.A., 1993
  • Cornell University, M.R.P., 1996
  • Fulbright scholar in Mexico, 1996

A Centrist Democrat

In her first week back to Congress, Giffords filed a bipartisan bill to cut her own salary, and that of her colleagues in the House and Senate, by 5 percent. She was one of 19 Democrats who did not vote for Nancy Pelosi in leadership elections. And not only did the Arizona Democrat jump at the chance to participate in the reading of the Constitution on the House floor with Republicans but she got to read the First Amendment.

The shooting prompted Republicans to postpone all votes scheduled on the House floor — including on the controversial health care repeal.

Ideologically, Giffords has been at the center of her delegation. She is a supporter of abortion rights, a gun owner who could vote in favor of Second Amendment rights and a solar energy proponent who backed the Democrats' controversial cap-and-trade energy bill last year.

"Gabby Giffords is an energetic, bright, capable representative, and I always enjoyed working with her. She was someone you could work with easily across the aisle," says former Rep. John Shadegg, an Arizona Republican.

'She's Tough'

Last March, around the time of the final health care overhaul vote, Giffords reported damage at her congressional office, and she had reported receiving threatening calls and e-mails.

Back then, Giffords was critical of heightened political rhetoric — at one point criticizing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for imagery on her political action committee's website.

  • People attend the memorial event, "Together We Thrive: Tuscon and America" at the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday to pay tribute to the six people who were killed and the 14 wounded in the assassination attempt on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is fighting for her life in hospital.
    Hide caption
    People attend the memorial event, "Together We Thrive: Tuscon and America" at the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday to pay tribute to the six people who were killed and the 14 wounded in the assassination attempt on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is fighting for her life in hospital.
    Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Obama speaks at the memorial service.
    Hide caption
    President Obama speaks at the memorial service.
    Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the tribute service in Tucson.
    Hide caption
    President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the tribute service in Tucson.
    Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • People wait in line for the memorial service honoring Saturday's shooting victims on the University of Arizona campus in Tuscon.
    Hide caption
    People wait in line for the memorial service honoring Saturday's shooting victims on the University of Arizona campus in Tuscon.
    David Becker/Getty Images
  • Parishioners attend an interfaith service at the Catalina United Methodist Church on Tuesday in Tucson.
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    Parishioners attend an interfaith service at the Catalina United Methodist Church on Tuesday in Tucson.
    David Becker/Getty Images
  • Supporters of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) gather for a vigil outside her offices in Tucscon, Ariz. Giffords and 18 others were shot on Saturday outside a local supermarket; six were killed.
    Hide caption
    Supporters of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) gather for a vigil outside her offices in Tucscon, Ariz. Giffords and 18 others were shot on Saturday outside a local supermarket; six were killed.
    Chris Carlson/AP
  • Giffords, a moderate "Blue Dog" Democrat, was re-elected in November after a close runoff with Tea Party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) re-enacts Giffords' swearing-in on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.
    Hide caption
    Giffords, a moderate "Blue Dog" Democrat, was re-elected in November after a close runoff with Tea Party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) re-enacts Giffords' swearing-in on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.
    Susan Walsh/AP
  • Jared Loughner is accused of opening fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event being held by Giffords at a Tucson supermarket.
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    Jared Loughner is accused of opening fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event being held by Giffords at a Tucson supermarket.
    Laura Segall/Getty Images
  • The gunman shot 19 people, killing six. Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range but survived.
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    The gunman shot 19 people, killing six. Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range but survived.
    James Palka/AP
  • Loughner, 22, has a history of erratic behavior. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as "unhinged."
    Hide caption
    Loughner, 22, has a history of erratic behavior. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as "unhinged."
    AP
  • At a Sunday news conference in Tucson, Dr. Peter Rhee (right) and Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr. said Giffords is able to follow verbal commands.
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    At a Sunday news conference in Tucson, Dr. Peter Rhee (right) and Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr. said Giffords is able to follow verbal commands.
    Chris Carlson/AP
  • At the White House, President Obama tells Americans to keep "all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers."
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    At the White House, President Obama tells Americans to keep "all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers."
    Evan Vucci/AP
  • Victims of Saturday's shooting include (top, from left) Christina Taylor Green, 9; Dorothy Morris, 76; Arizona Federal District Judge John Roll, 63; and (bottom, from left) Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Gabe Zimmerman, 30.
    Hide caption
    Victims of Saturday's shooting include (top, from left) Christina Taylor Green, 9; Dorothy Morris, 76; Arizona Federal District Judge John Roll, 63; and (bottom, from left) Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Gabe Zimmerman, 30.
    AP
  • The flag on op top of the White House flies at half-staff Monday in honor of those killed and wounded in Tucson.
    Hide caption
    The flag on op top of the White House flies at half-staff Monday in honor of those killed and wounded in Tucson.
    Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • Loughner appeared at the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse in Phoenix on Monday. He is facing federal charges in the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, the murders of federal Judge roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, and two counts of attempted murder.
    Hide caption
    Loughner appeared at the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse in Phoenix on Monday. He is facing federal charges in the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, the murders of federal Judge roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, and two counts of attempted murder.
    Laura Segall/Getty Images
  • Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, holds his wife's hand in the congresswoman's hospital room at University Medical Center in Tucson. Giffords remained in critical condition Wednesday.
    Hide caption
    Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, holds his wife's hand in the congresswoman's hospital room at University Medical Center in Tucson. Giffords remained in critical condition Wednesday.
    U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office via Getty Images

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"We are on Sarah Palin's targeted list — but, the thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said on MSNBC. "And when people do that, they have got to realize that there's consequences to that action."

In a statement Saturday, Palin said she offered her sincere condolences to Giffords and the other victims.

Still, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat, echoed concerns about the current political atmosphere in his state.

"People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that," he said. "That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences."

But so far it’s in no way clear what — if any — motive there was for the shooting. Lawmakers reacting to the shooting most often describe it as an act of "senseless violence."

And when it comes to Giffords' recovery, Rep. Raul Grijalva, another Arizona Democrat, says: "She's not only a fighter, but she’s tough, and I think both those are going to serve her well right now."

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