Tonight Is Gifford’s Last Appearance — What Happens Next? — UPDATED
Ever since Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced that she would be retiring from her seat in the House to focus on her recovery from last year’s assassination attempt, support has been flowing for the Democratic lawmaker.
Her good friend and DNC Chairwoman, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stated, “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is an incredible public servant, woman, and friend. No one can really understand what she and her family have been through over the past year. The remarkable progress of her recovery, combined with her indelible zest for life, has lifted the spirits of millions of Americans…Gabby has had such a positive impact on our nation. Even in announcing her resignation, she reminds us that ‘we can do so much more by working together.’ We will miss Gabby’s spirit in Congress and I will miss working with my friend day-to-day, but I am confident that she will return to public service and we can all work together for America.”
Even President Barack Obama weighed in on her retirement. “Over the last year, Gabby and her husband Mark have taught us the true meaning of hope in the face of despair, determination in the face of incredible odds, and now – even after she’s come so far – Gabby shows us what it means to be selfless as well.”
Tonight, at the State of the Union, Giffords is expected to make her last public appearance before officially stepping down. So how does Arizona get a new representative in the meantime? Politico lays out the timeline for a new special election.
“Under Arizona law, Gov. Janice Brewer (R) has 72 hours from the day the seat is officially vacant to announce a date for a special election to replace Giffords. The party primary must be held 80-90 days from the date of vacancy, with a general election 50-60 days after that. That sets up a primary in a seat that could be tough for Democrats to hold in mid to late April, with a general election in mid-June.”
Special education teacher Anthony Prowell had already announced a plan to run in the 2012 primary, concerned, he said, that Giffords would not run and that Republicans would take over the seat. Other candidates will likely appear after the retirement is official.
Although special elections, due to lower voter turnout, tend to favor Republicans, the nature of this election could inspire more Democrats to show up at the polls in order to honor Giffords by retaining her seat. But a mid-June primary, meaning summer, more outside activities, and students on break from college, also could suppress Democratic votes as well, making the seat a total toss-up. And whoever does win would still need to turn around and instantly run again for the November election, too.
With two elections in a matter of 10 months, and no incumbent, this will be a race the whole nation will be watching.
UPDATE: It appears Giffords will have one last moment in the House, where tomorrow she will cast a vote for a bill to stop drug smuggling across the border.
photo credit:United States Congress