I have a good friend, Steve Brittle, a political strategist and environmental activist, who worked with Congresswoman Giffords on several campaigns. We talked about what happened in Tucson and I asked him for his thoughts to share with the nation today.
That's after the jump.
I work as a political consultant and first met Gabby Giffords during her first run for Congress in 2006. Frankly, I gave her a bit of a hard time with questions about her voting record because she was more conservative than I am, as I was hoping that after 22 years of Congressman Kolbe, who was retiring, the congressional representative would be more of a progressive. She already had a loyal following who were fiercely protective of her and who gave me an equally hard time back, especially the LGBT community of Tucson.
When Gabby handily won her 2006 primary election against a more progressive Democrat, Patty Weiss, I unequivocally allied with her for that election and the subsequent ones. In 2006, Gabby almost looked too youthful, but she rose to the demands of the campaign and office. By 2010, when she faced a tough reelection, I never doubted she would win.
This was because in the years after her first election, Giffords transformed in image and service into the consummate congresswoman, and became beloved by her constituency. Gabby looked like what the ideal congresswoman should look - professional, dignified, an almost superstar quality.
I remember people lining up to sign petitions to get Gabby's name on the ballot at the Pima County Democratic Party booth at the county fair. They might not like all or even any of the other Democratic candidates, but they always would sign Gabby's. But her appeal to Republicans and independents was what sealed her success. Republicans have an edge in voter registration in her congressional district, and to win she had to appeal to enough of them. Gabby was and is the right kind of Democrat to win and hold the seat, while a more progressive would not have succeeded. Gabby was a real rising star who would have likely been the Democratic nominee for Senator Kyl's seat in 2012.
Gabby, quietly brilliant, had the patience, diplomacy, and ability to solicit and actually listen to what people were telling her and asking her, and respond in the perfect way. Now, the entire nation waits to see how well she will recuperate and if she will emerge from this tragic shooting to continue her good works. Either way, what has happened here has changed forever the nation's political landscape and the tenor of its political speech. And I know whatever happens with her, she'd be glad something positive could come out of this terribly horrific event that will make a great nation even greater.