Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Decision to Resign

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Friends and former colleagues of Representative Gabrielle Giffords comment on her decision to resign from Congress.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. President Barack Obama's visit Wednesday afternoon will include a stop at an Intel plant in Chandler to talk about job creation and economic development, part of a three-day tour that will take President Obama through five battleground states. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords today met with survivors of the shooting that took place at her Congress on the Corner event last year completing the event that was cut short when six were shot to death and 13 wounded. Gabrielle Giffords met supporters, talked issues, then went to see a food bank named in her honor. Tomorrow she will attend President Obama's State of the Union speech. Yesterday her office released a video announcing that Giffords will step down from Congress this week to focus on her recovery.

Gabrielle Giffords (video): Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.

Ted Simons: Joining me now to talk about congresswoman Giffords' decision are two of her friends, former roommates and colleagues at the state legislature. State Senator Linda Lopez Democrat from Tucson and former Democratic state Senator from Phoenix, Ken Cheuvront. Was this decision a surprise?

Sen. Linda Lopez: It was a surprise that she resigned midterm. I was worried that they were going to try to run her anyway so when I heard the news on the radio yesterday, around the house, I was so relieved. Just a wave of relief went over me. I thought, oh good, she does not have to deal with that pressure any more. It was a good surprise.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised?

Ken Cheuvront: I was surprised about the timing that she had waited to this point to do it, but both of us were very happy. We would like her to focus on her health instead of having to worry about politics.

Ted Simons: How difficult a decision do you thing was for her?

Ken Cheuvront: I think extremely. Linda and I were both there when Gabby decided to run years ago. To her politics were her life. When she decided to run for Congress I think it even pushed up further. Her being a public servant was always who she was as a person. So it was a very difficult decision.

Sen. Linda Lopez: I think it was hard for her, but it was also a realization on her part and the folks around her that she just could not do the job. I know Gabby. Ken knows Gabby. Gabby does not want to do anything unless she can do it to 150% of her ability and she recognized she was not able to fulfill that responsibility.

Ted Simons: With that in mind do you think she was in some way relieved?

Sen. Linda Lopez: I saw her yesterday afternoon, Ted. I sensed a feeling of relief from her. I think yes. She's relieved.

Ted Simons: Do you think she's in some way relieved this decision has been made?

Ken Cheuvront: I agree with Linda. She was a workaholic. When she would call me sometimes from Washington it would be midnight there and she was still working or she was making phone calls or she was always doing something. For her, as she said she never did anything halfway. To her I think in order to be -- for her to feel good about herself she had to depart.

Ted Simons: The importance of privacy, the importance of home to her now she will be able to maybe step a little bit back from the spotlight. Also get home to Tucson and stay in Tucson as opposed to flying back. How important do you think those issues were for her?

Ken Cheuvront: I know for us it was very important because we felt it was amazing over time how everybody became her best friend or a good friend of hers. We were just waiting until she wasn't in the spot slight so she could be herself again with her family, which is extremely important to her. Hopefully Mark and her will be able to spend more time in Tucson.

Sen. Linda Lopez: I have asked her a couple of times, when I saw her at Thanksgiving I asked how Houston was and she said, stinks, stinks, stinks. When I saw her yesterday, I said, okay, are you going to come back to Tucson now? When are you going to move home? She said, I don't know. Home, home. I said I need you to come home so we can have breakfast together. And she said, and lunch and dinner. She's happiest at home. It's where the people are that she knows and loves. It's where she is familiar with the surroundings.

Ted Simons: With that in mind do you think she will eventually when she recovers more, whenever that may be, will she get back into politics? Will she get back into elected politics?

Sen. Linda Lopez: well, I think that's going to depend on the trajectory of her recovery and how much she can recover. This is a long process. She suffered a really, really traumatic injury, so it's going to take a while for her. You know, whenever I see her, she continues to make progress, but it's slow for her. So I think it will depend on how that goes.

Ted Simons: And it could also depend on what else she does in the meantime. She may find something she really enjoys doing and may not want to run for Congress or elective office again.

Ken Cheuvront: I think people will be welcoming whatever decision she makes but I hope she doesn't make it too quickly. But she's done. If you knew her past from going to school, doing her studying down in Mexico with a Mennonite community, we traveled to Istanbul together, London together, she always has many interests, but elected office was something that was extremely important to her. If she's capable of it and she feels she wants to I think she will go back.

Ted Simons: Until she goes back up to now even if she endorses someone who runs in the primary in general for the special election, what's her legacy?

Ken Cheuvront: I think her legacy is amazing. From pushing so energetic for Arizona, to helping military spending, with mark being an astronaut, her focus on high-tech and NASA were extremely important to her.

Sen. Linda Lopez: I think that her legacy has been her ability to work with anyone, no matter what their background is. No matter what side of the aisle they were on, that she always was able to work across the aisle with everyone. I think she also has always held true to her principles as well even in the face of a lot of criticism. She has always supported reproductive rights. She never wavered from that even when under attack for that.

Ted Simons: Basically we're talking a pro business, moderate Democrat. Would that particular candidate run for that particular seat today, do you think? Would a young Gabby Giffords look at that seat right now and say, I want that?

Sen. Linda Lopez: I would hope so. I think that's the kinds of person that that district knees. That's the kinds of person that needs to come in and fill that seat and I think that's the kinds of person that could win.

Ted Simons: That's one district but that district becomes part of another district now with redistricting. Would a young Gabby Giffords be interested?

Ken Cheuvront: I would hope so. Seven or eight years ago we went to our Alma matter, Scripps College. She was being awarded a distinguished honor. It's an all women's school. So many came up to her and said, you're such an inspiration. A lot of women will see they can become a Gabrielle Giffords.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us. When we return, a look at the process to find Giffords' successor. First here's the complete video announcement released by Gabby Giffords' office.

Gabrielle Giffords (video): Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year we cannot change that, but I know on the issues we fought for we can change things for the better. Jobs. Border security. Veterans. [applause] We can do so much more by working together. I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week. I'm getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country. Thank you very much.

Linda Lopez:Senator (D-Tucson); Ken Cheuvront:Former State Legislator

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