Before being elected to Congress, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords served in the Arizona State Legislature. Former State Senator Ken Cheuvront and Senator Linda Lopez, who served with Giffords at the State Capitol, talk about their colleague and close friend.
Ted Simons: Before being elected to congress, Representative Giffords served in the state legislature. Former state lawmaker Ken Cheuvront and senator Linda López served with Giffords at the capitol. Earlier today I talked to them about their colleague and their friend.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us on "Horizon." I know this is uncomfortable but I want to make it as cathartic as I can. You were former colleagues of -- you were more than colleagues of hers. You were friends.
Linda López: I first met her when we were first running for the house here in Arizona and after that, when we got elected we moved in with Ken and roommates with Ken for two years and Gabby and I rented a house from Ken for a year and there was a building that Ken had renovated from former senator Andy Nichols and we rented an apartment there for two years. Not only being roommates we were best friends, we still are best friends. We traveled together in other countries across the United States and she's a very close friend.
Ted Simons: Indeed, and a close friend for you as well. Talk about the relationship and how you met.
Ken Cheuvront: It was interesting, at the time, I was running for the leader of the democratic caucus and I found out about Gabby because she went to college next to my alma mater and Linda, and went down there and tried to help them with the campaign and typical of Gabby, she was very frugal and pulls up to this location in an old beat up pickup. I know their family owned El campo tires and it wasn't until later that I realized she was cheap. She was never going to spend money on a nice car
Linda López: She always bought her clothes at the used clothing store. She didn't believe in buying anything new. She wasn't into like putting herself together. She loved jewelry and big clunky jewelry, but no -- and the reason she looks good today is because one of her staff members who was shot in the incident on Saturday, Pam Simon, does all of her shopping for her. So Pam puts her together.
Ted Simons: Really? To this day, it's still tough to spend money on clothes.
Linda López: that's exactly right.
Ted Simons: Now you mentioned El campo, is that a tire store in Tucson?
Ken Cheuvront: It was a tire store that her grandfather started back in Tucson I don't know back in the thirties. Something well known. She was the face of El campo tires and did commercials for them and really, I think -- you live in Tucson.
Linda López: Yeah, we saw her all the time. The buck stretcher. I remember that. The commercial for El campo tires.
Ken Cheuvront: And, of course, we made fun of her all the time about that.
Ted Simons: I'm sure. As far as the legislature and dealing with her in the legislature, personal stories are fascinating and I want to get back to those as well. But as a lawmaker, talk to us what she emphasized. The things that were of concern to her then and did you see that moving over to the United States House of Representatives.
Linda López: I would say the things she worked on a lot in the Arizona legislature have carried over. The environment and energy and those were big issues for her in Arizona and continued to be in Washington. You know, I have to say, she's one the hardest working legislators I ever met. Unlike me, I go to bed early, she stays up late and gets up later in the morning than I do, but works hard and excellent in working with her constituents.
Ted Simons: Was she always like that?
Linda López: Absolutely. Hard worker.
Ted Simons: is that what you saw as well?
Ken Cheuvront: She's amazing; I got tired just watching her.
Linda López: Yeah.
Ken Cheuvront: She would, you know, work endlessly. One of her mentors was Senator Nichols who she adored until he passed away and then she took his seat. But I was one of those person who could I could read something, and then just move one I ran two companies, but she was incessantly talking to constituents or working on issues nonstop.
Linda López: I would tell her, she would spend long periods of time meeting with people, I would say, Gabby, when are you going to take care of yourself? You need to shut it off a little bit. You need to get on to the next thing. And to this day, she's still that way, never sees a stranger. She talks to everybody. Will listen to all of their concerns and whatever they want to talk to her about. Always has a smile on her face. So --
Ken Cheuvront: She is in politics, this is something I noticed about her. She really wants to make a difference and that's what got her involved in politics. When I first met her, I don't think she was a natural politician.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask that. Do you consider her a policy wonk?
Ken Cheuvront: Yes. I was more of a politician; she was a policy wonk and has become a great statesperson.
Ted Simons: Is that how you see it?
Linda López: Definitely. I've seen such growth in her since she went to congress. The speeches she gives now and her ability to communicate her ideas, really phenomenal.
Ted Simons: Back to the State legislature, Talk to us about the district she represented. What kind of area is this. What are the folks like? For those not familiar with Tucson and that area.
Linda López: It's central Tucson, you know --
Ken Cheuvront: But the original district she won in was a little different.
Linda López: That was up on the northwest side of town, but then she -- the district she was elected from was central Tucson and more the -- like down Broadway area where there's a lot of businesses. Kind of a middle income. Middle income, to upper middle income area. I'd say more progressive. More liberal in terms of the folks that vote there. But not -- a little close registration in terms of DNR. That sort of thing.
Ted Simons: We talked about whether she was a policy wonk or politician and you mentioned she was into details. Did you see that evolve into someone who maybe had more ambition as the years went by, or was that ambition always there?
Ken Cheuvront: She was always a nerd and always had a lot of ambition. The things she had done. Grad school and living in Mexico for a year with a German- I forgot the group. We both traveled in different parts of the world with her, and her mother, because she's extremely close to her family. Adores both of her parents.
Linda López: Definitely. She's really connected and attached to them and does everything she can to make sure they're comfortable. She's had a rough couple of years the past couple years. Her father was bitten by a rattlesnake and has had all kinds of complications from that and a lot of medical problems on top of that. She's very, very concerned about him. The light of her life now is her nephew.
Ted Simons: Oh, really.
Linda López: Her sister Melissa had a baby and all of us were surprised by that. [Laughter] But she had a baby and so Gabby is really -- I can remember going shopping with her in the store, congress, for her new nephew.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Ken Cheuvront: Her husband, too, he's a wonderful, wonderful man. I mean, we were -- we were talking earlier, with her through a lot of her boyfriends and I got to the point, Gabby, I'm not going to meet anymore. So I wouldn't meet Mark, I think it was eight months before I met him and when I met him, he was an amazing man and she was so in love, is in love, and it was wonderful to see she finally found someone her true equal and they're both amazing people.
Linda López: I was a brides maid at her wedding and she asked me to give a toast and I talked about Mark and how when she came home talking about Mark, that I knew that this was the one. Like Ken, I had heard about all of them. And met some of them, but this was different. Mark was different. I knew it was -- this was the one for her.
Ted Simons: And only friends can know those sorts of things.
Linda López: Exactly right.
Ken Cheuvront: It's interesting; he has an identical twin brother who is also an astronaut. And at the beginning, she couldn't tell the difference. I don't know if Mark knew that. Mark had a mustache so it was M for mustache Mark had a mustache.
Linda López: And then he switched.
Ted Simons: Sounds like a bad sitcom (laughs). We heard her described in the media. I want your assessment as a conservative democrat or moderate democrat in a tough district, in terms of 50/50 splits and these things. Is that something she wasn't always and has become -- was she always that kind of politician? Looking at it left-right here. Sounds like she's straight down the middle as far as people's perceptions. What about yours?
Linda López: I would say centrist. Not real far to the left. Not really conservative. I would say the thing she does best is represent her constituents as a district and so she is always taking into account how her constituents feel.
Ken Cheuvront: Gabby, like I grew up as a Republican and I think that's why we had an affinity. Linda, who was in Berkeley in the '60s.
Linda López: Yes.
Ken Cheuvront: There are a couple of things that surprised me about her. She was into the military. She had a commission where she would fly with the jets on refueling missions and in the reserve guard or something.
Linda López: Yeah, she -- very, very closely connected to Davis-Monthan air force base, I cant remember the name of the group, but still a part of that and they're crazy about her.
Ken Cheuvront: We used to give her a hard time about it.
Ted Simons: What are you hearing now? From friends, other friends, family? Give us a sense what it's like for you here these past few days.
Ken Cheuvront: When it happened. I drove down to Tucson because I wanted to be with Linda and Elaine Richardson who is also a close friend and David Bradley and we didn't have a chance to talk to her parents, but we're concerned about her father, because she was the --
Linda López: Apple of his eye.
Ken Cheuvront: And her mother, amazing woman. But she's the stronger of the two of them. And mark, I'm sure, his brother is up in the space station, it's tough for him also.
Linda López: Exactly. Yeah, you know, I called her mom yesterday and left a message for her. I don't want to intrude upon them. I know right now is an extremely challenging time for them and I think once we see some stability and know that things are on the mend, I'll go and see with them and talk with them. But sometimes I know that folks kind of want to be to themselves. I don't want to intrude upon that, but as I told her on the phone, we were really thinking about her and all of us are very upset about it.
Ted Simons: We understand that and that's why we don't want to intrude too much on you, this is a very difficult time. But give us one final thought what we should know about Gabrielle Giffords and what kind of person she is and just -- just a -- general thoughts about the situation.
Ken Cheuvront: She's the most giving and thoughtful person. I don't think we've heard her say anything bad. The two of us would, but she would not say a word when we were talking about different people. She's the hardest working person I know and that someone would do this to her, is unconscionable. I don't get it. I just -- it's incomprehensible for me.
Linda López: I got to tell you, she's the best friend you could ask for. I know she would do anything for me and the feeling goes the other way. With the other stuff going on, with her election and -- I -- I got married the day after Thanksgiving and when I told Gabby I was getting married, she said I want to have a bridal shower for you. It was two days after the election. The fourth of November and she went all out. She and Elaine both. It was a fabulous time. And she and Elaine and I sat up until 1:30 in the morning after everybody else left at 10:00.
Ted Simons: That's what friends are for. And we thank you both for joining us. I know it's difficult but I hope it helped to talk about your friend. Thank you so much for joining us.
Ken Cheuvront:former State Senator;Linda Lopez:State Senator;