Gabrielle Giffords resignation: Questions were growing in Arizona

Gabrielle Giffords announced this weekend that she was stepping down from her post to concentrate on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head. But the congresswoman was also facing growing criticism that she was no longer serving the needs of her voters.

The political landscape in the wake of Giffords' January 2011 shooting was a sensitive one. After all, Giffords, 41, nearly died when a gunman opened fire while she greeted constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. In all, six people were killed, and 13 were wounded.

When Anthony Prowell, a special ed teacher, began collecting signatures to run for Giffords’ seat as a longshot Green Party candidate, he was verbally attacked as a "vulture" and a "low-life" even as it was becoming increasingly clear that there was little chance Giffords would return to serve in her full capacity anytime soon.

PHOTOS: Tucson shooting: One year later

When Giffords spoke to ABC's Diane Sawyer in November in an exclusive interview, she struggled to find the right words and spoke in short, halting sentences. Even though the interview represented an almost miraculous recovery, it also underscored how much further Giffords needed to go before being able to serve her constituents as she did before the shooting.

Some, though, say that the Democratic Party may have been behind the year-long delay in a decision about who would run Giffords' district.

“I do believe there’s a political strategy in play here by the Democrats to exploit if they can as long as possible the situation,” Arizona State Sen. Frank Antenori told the Daily Caller last week, “to keep Republicans from actively beginning to campaign.”

The online comments on the article hint at increasing voter skepticism from some corners:

"I do hope she gets better, but that she has even remained in the seat is simply unbelievable," said one comment.

"We all hope she recovers to the extent that she can but, unfortunately, it's not going to be to a level needed to represent a Congressional district.  She simply cannot endure a campaign or effectively tend to the constituency.  Currently a 'staff' is running wild, in her name, doing who know what. But the votes ... we are not represented and that's illegal," said another.

Antenori, a Republican, is widely expected to run for Giffords seat, although he said that out of respect for Giffords he will not make an announcement until after she leaves office. That is expected to take place this week, after she attends President Obama's State of the Union address.

Giffords' resignation is expected to kick off a fierce battle for her 8th Congressional district seat. The district is a mix of conservatives, liberals and independents but currently leans Republican. That could change later this year, with redistricting expected to sway the district toward the Democrats.

The special election expected to be held to replace Giffords, however, will be held under the current district lines, potentially giving an edge to Republicans.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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