LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords reiterated Monday that he will not run for her seat in 2012, telling a University of Nebraska-Lincoln audience that he is focusing on his wife’s recovery.
Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly said his wife’s decision to resign came as she viewed her continued path to recovery after being shot in the head just over a year ago. Kelly also told an audience of about 500 that he will not seek his wife’s seat, but he left open a window to seek public office beyond 2012.
“I’m asked over and over again if I’m running for Congress, and I keep saying no,” he said. “Then I keep getting asked again, and I have to say no a different way. I think Gabby’s staff made it very clear to the Arizona newspapers when they said he will not be a candidate for Congress in 2012.”
Kelly said Giffords could have held her seat if she had decided to run again, but she decided after months of contemplation to focus on her recovery.
“Everybody expected Gabby would have run for re-election,” Kelly said. “She could have, I think. She could have hung onto her seat and done the politically expedient thing to do. But she wanted to do the right thing. And in this case, she needs to focus on her continued recovery.”
He added: “You know, I’ve been a public servant for a long time, and I think public service is in my future again. But right now, my goal is to make sure she can get back to where she needs to be, so she can return to work.”
Giffords was shot and grievously wounded in an assassination attempt at a town hall event in Tucson, Ariz. Six people, including Giffords’ aide, were killed and 13 were injured during the shooting. She announced Sunday that she was resigning from Congress to focus on her recovery.
Her progress had seemed remarkable, to the point that she was able to walk dramatically into the House chamber last August to cast a vote. Kelly has advocated for his wife’s return in public service, once she recovers.
Giffords spent time Monday at her office with other survivors of the shooting rampage. She hugged and talked with survivors, including Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her young friend and neighbor, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. The little girl died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
An upbeat Giffords hinted that her departure from public life might be temporary. In a message sent on Twitter, she said: “I will return & we will work together for Arizona & this great country.”
Earlier Monday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama has invited Kelly to Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Kelly, 47, flew four missions in space and served as commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final mission last year. He retired from the NASA astronaut corps last year to devote more time to his wife.
The speech was part of the university’s Peter J. Hoagland Integrity in Public Service Lecture Series.