With a vow to someday return, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords formally resigned her seat in Congress today, one year after she was nearly killed in an assassination attempt.
Giffords said she is working hard to recover from the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting at a grocery store outside of Tucson. But while her staff has worked to represent her constituents in her absence, Giffords wrote, the district deserves someone who can serve them 100 percent of the time.
“The only way I ever served my district in Congress was by giving 100 percent. This past year, that’s what I have given to my recovery. Thank you for your patience,” Giffords wrote. “I have given all of myself to being able to walk back onto the House floor this year to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. However, today I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office.”
Giffords submitted the letter to Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Her resignation will be effective at the end of the day.
In her letter, Giffords recalled 10 years of service as a state legislator, congresswoman and military spouse. Public service, she said, was a venue for her pursuit of a stronger America.
“I have found a way to care for others. And in the past year, I have found a value that is unbreakable even by the most vicious of attacks,” she wrote.
She thanked her constituents and the others who have supported her during her recovery. Giffords said she doesn’t remember much from “that terrible day,” but will never forget the prayers, well wishes and support of millions of Americans.
“Even as I have worked to regain my speech, thank you for your faith in my ability to be your voice,” she wrote.
Giffords also mourned the loss of the six people who were killed and 12 others who were wounded in the attacks, saying not a day goes by when she doesn’t grieve for them. They died, she said, performing a basic but important act of citizenship.
As she did in a video address on Sunday, when she announced that she would resign after the State of the Union address, Giffords pledged to one day return.
“Amid all that was lost on Jan. 8, there was also hope and faith. This past year, it is what I have often clung to: Hope that our government can represent the best of a nation, not the worst. Faith that Americans working together – in their communities, in our Congress – can succeed without qualification. Hope and faith that even as we are set back by tragedy or profound disagreement, in the end we can come together as Americans to set a course toward greatness,” she said. “Every day, I am working hard. I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona and for all Americans.”
On Tuesday, Giffords attended her final State of the Union. During the 2011 address, held just weeks after the shooting, her seat between U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake and Raul Grijalva remained empty.
This morning in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a close friend of Giffords, said a tearful goodbye. Giffords held hands with Flake and the Florida congresswoman as Wasserman Schultz spoke of their friendship, Giffords’ commitment to her constituents and her determination to one day return to public service.
“For the last year it has been one of the honors of my life and the most important thing to remember that no matter what we argue about here on this floor or in this country, there is nothing more important than family and friendship. And that should held on high above all else,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And I will always carry that in my heart. And even though I know we won’t see each other every day, Gabby, we will be friends for life.”
After the speech, Wasserman Schultz walked Giffords’ to the House speaker’s rostrum to deliver her resignation letter to Boehner.
The House also voted on Giffords’ last bill, a measure aimed at cracking down on the smuggling of ultralight aircraft used to by drug cartels for cross-border smuggling. Flake called the bill a “fitting tribute” to Giffords on her last day in the House.
“While today may be her last day in the House, her public service will certainly continue. She’s passionate about improving Arizona and the country, and she’s going to continue to be an effective advocate for the issues that are important to her,” Flake said in a press statement.
Once Giffords’ resignation is official, Brewer will have 72 hours to call a special election for the 8th Congressional District seat. The primary election for the seat will be held 80 to 90 days later, and the general election will be 50 to 60 days after that.
Several possible candidates have emerged. On the Democratic side, Sen. Paula Aboud, Reps. Steve Farley and Matt Heinz, businesswoman and environmental attorney Nan Walden and defense contractor David Crowe are thought to be eying the seat.
On the Republican side, Jesse Kelly, Giffords’ 2010 opponent, filed candidacy paperwork on Tuesday. And Sen. Frank Antenori and sportscaster Dave Sitton are contemplating runs.
The winner of the special election will still have to run for the new 2nd Congressional District in the regular election.