Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona last year, announced Sunday that she will step down from her congressional seat this week to focus on her recovery.
“I don’t remember much from that horrible day. But I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice,” Giffords said in a video posted on her campaign Web site. “I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”
Giffords (D) was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire at a town hall-style “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011. Six of the 19 people who were injured died, but Giffords survived despite significant trauma to her brain. She has made a steady recovery since then, undergoing intensive rehabilitation and therapy to restore her motor skills and speech.
Giffords’s office said Sunday that she will “finish her Congress on Your Corner event that was interrupted by a gunman on Jan. 8, 2011.” And she will also attend President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday.
The suspect in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, is undergoing psychiatric treatment in Missouri. He has been forcibly treated with psychotropic drugs for the past five months, according to the Associated Press, but it remains to be seen whether he will be found fit for trial.
Giffords’s resignation will trigger a special election later this year to fill her seat. Several potential candidates, Republicans and Democratic, had previously come forward expressing interest in the seat, though the list will likely grow now that she is stepping down.
There is also speculation that her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, could jump into the ring. If he does, he would have access to$800,000 in campaign funds that flowed into Giffords’s coffers since the shooting.
In the video, Giffords — her hair still short but growing in — speaks directly to the camera, articulate and clear though her speech is slightly impaired.
“Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that,” she says to the camera, as images of Arizona and her past meetings with voters flash on the screen. “But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better. Jobs. Border security. Veterans. We can do so much more by working together.”
She concludes: “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.”