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Gabrielle Giffords

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th district
Assumed office 
January 3, 2007
Preceded by Jim Kolbe

In office

In office

Born June 8, 1970 (1970-06-08) (age 39)
Tucson, Arizona
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mark E. Kelly
Residence Tucson
Alma mater Cornell University (M.U.P.)
Scripps College (B.A.)
Profession Politician; businesswoman
Religion Jewish

Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords (born June 8, 1970) is a Democratic politician from Tucson, Arizona. She is congresswoman for Arizona's 8th congressional district. Giffords is the youngest woman ever to be elected to the Arizona Senate, where she served from 2003 to 2005. She is the only member of the U.S. Congress who is a spouse of an active duty member of the US military.[1]

Giffords was first sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3, 2007. She is the third woman in Arizona's history to be elected to serve in the U.S. Congress and she was the only woman elected as part of Arizona's congressional delegation to the 110th Congress. On May 31, 2008, Giffords became the first sitting member of the U.S. Congress to have a spouse in outer space when her husband, Mark Kelly, began a 14-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.[2]

She is a member of the Democratic Leadership Council and its congressional affiliate the New Democrat Coalition. She is also a Blue Dog Democrat.


Early life and education

Giffords was born in Tucson, Arizona, and graduated from Tucson's University High School.

She received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, California, in 1993, and a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 1996. She focused her studies on Mexico–United States relations while at Cornell.

Giffords was a Fulbright Scholar in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1996 and a fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Career in business and with the Arizona Legislature

Giffords worked as an associate for regional economic development at Price Waterhouse in New York City.

In 1996, she became president and CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses. El Campo was a local automotive chain founded by her grandfather. In 2000, she oversaw the sale of the company to Goodyear Tire. At the time of the sale she commented on the difficulties local businesses face when competing against large national firms. Giffords said "I’m really proud of being able to return to Arizona and help my family and take over a tire business that had serious challenges."[3]

Giffords is the managing partner at Giffords Capital Management, a property management company based in Tucson.

Giffords began her political career as a legislator in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she served from 2001 to 2003.

Giffords was elected to the Arizona Senate in the fall of 2002 and is the youngest woman ever elected to this body. She took office in January 2003 and was re-elected in 2004. She resigned from the Arizona Senate on December 1, 2005, in preparation for her congressional campaign.

In early 2005, Giffords said of the Arizona Legislature: "The previous two legislatures enjoyed the benefits of a working coalition consisting of Democrats and middle-of-the-road Republicans. Due to a lack of competitive legislative districts and low voter turnout during GOP primaries, a fairly large crop of mostly conservative Republicans will dominate the House and Senate in 2005." Giffords' concerns played out as an increasingly conservative legislature combined with a Democratic governor, led to increased polarity in Arizona politics. [4]

Expanding health care access was an issue of interest for Giffords when she served in the legislature. She also push for bills related to mental health and was named by the Mental Health Association of Arizona as the 2004 Legislator of the Year. Giffords also earned the Sierra Club's Most Valuable Player award. [5]

In the legislature, Giffords worked on the bipartisan Children’s Caucus, which sought to improve education and health care for Arizona’s children. Critics of this plan argued that it amounted to taxpayer funded daycare. She worked with Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano to promote all-day kindergarten. Giffords supported raising more money for schools "through sponsorship of supplemental state aid through bonds and tax credits that could be used for school supplies." She was awarded Arizona Family Literacy’s Outstanding Legislator for 2003. [6]

Congressional career

Rep. Giffords in 2007

In her inaugural speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Giffords said a comprehensive immigration reform package needs to include modern technology to secure the border, more border patrol agents, tough employer sanctions for businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and a guest-worker program. In her first month in office, Congresswoman Giffords voted to support increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, raising the minimum wage, endorsing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and supporting new rules for the House of Representative targeting ethical issues. Giffords also voted to repeal subsidies to big oil companies and invest the savings in renewable energy. "We put our national security at risk by relying on oil from unstable regimes in the Middle East and Latin America," Giffords told her colleagues in a speech on the House floor during debate on the Clean Energy Act. The act repeals $14 billion in subsidies given to oil companies and establishes a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to increase research in clean renewable energy, to develop greater energy efficiency, and to improve energy conservation.

During the 2007 session of Congress, Giffords introduced a bill (H.R. 1441)[7] that forbids the sale of F-14 aircraft parts on the open market.[8] She also voted for the contentious May 2007 Iraq Emergency Supplemental Spending bill, saying, "I cannot, in good conscience, allow the military to run out of money while American servicemen and women are being attacked every day".[9]


Committee assignments

Political positions


Giffords is pro-choice. She has a 100% rating from NARAL.[10]

Economic policy

Giffords voted for Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.[11]

Giffords voted for the Stimulus.[12]

In endorsing Giffords, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said:

Our economic policy is headed in the wrong direction for businesses and for families, and it will take real leadership to change direction. That leadership is what Gabrielle Giffords has to offer. I have known Gabrielle Giffords for many years and she impressed me from the outset. . . . Her support of a higher minimum wage at both the state and national level is representative of the understanding that she has for the concerns of working men and women. I spent time with her in Tucson meeting with union leaders and members at the IBEW Hall on Tucson Blvd. this spring and I was impressed at her command of the economic issues facing both Arizona and the nation."[13]


Giffords emphasizes that Americans are competing on a global level and that this competition starts in the classroom. She is a critic of the No Child Left Behind law, viewing it as an unfunded federal mandate. She is a graduate of public schools and supports them with a variety of proposals to make them more effective.[citation needed]

Tucson Weekly noted a letter Giffords sent, on August 1, 2008, to congressional leaders regarding tax credits that were set to expire. She wrote "failure to extend the tax credits would deal a devastating blow to the U.S. renewable energy industry, just as it is beginning to take off."[14]

In September 2007 she released a report titled: The Community Solar Energy Initiative, Solar Energy in Southern Arizona. The report states that Arizona has enough daily sunshine to power the entire United States. It reviews current energy usage and discusses how to increase the production of solar electricity.[15]

Gun Rights

Giffords supports restrictions on gun control. She has a D+ rating from the NRA[16] and a D- from the GOA.[17]

Immigration and Mexico

Arizona's 8th Congressional District is one of 10 in the country bordering Mexico. Giffords lived in Mexico as a Fulbright Scholar in the early 1990s. She has promoted comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. She supports stronger penalties against employers hiring illegal immigrants, and she would like to see a new system allowing work permits for foreign citizens who apply for them. “We should take advantage of our proximity to Mexico and promote development of private initiative, free trade, and support for Mexico in creating new jobs. For example, in Agua Prieta, Sonora, alone, 17 of the ‘maquilladora’ factories have moved to Asia,” Giffords said.[18]

Iraq and Afghanistan

Giffords is an opponent of the war in Iraq, and a proponent of strengthening American efforts in Afghanistan.[citation needed]


In 2008, Giffords introduced legislation that would have increased the cap on the H-1B visa from 65,000 per year to 130,000 per year. If that was not sufficient, according to her legislation, the cap would have been increased to 180,000 per year.[19] The H-1B visa has been used by outsourcing companies to displace highly skilled United States workers and create a pipeline to off-shore jobs[20]. Giffords' bill failed to garner the needed support and was not enacted.


Giffords has worked to promote technological innovation as an important component of national prosperity.[21][22] She believes that innovation in renewable energy sources needs to be a top public policy priority and she is a strong proponent of solar energy.[23]

Congressional campaigns

Giffords was first elected to Congress in 2006. She was reelected in 2008.


Giffords launched her campaign on January 24, 2006. The campaign received national attention early on as a likely pick-up for the Democratic Party. Prominent Democrats endorsed Giffords including Tom Daschle, Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Bill Clinton. EMILY's List endorsed Giffords early in the campaign cycle.[24] The Sierra Club and the Arizona Education Association also endorsed her.[25] On September 12, 2006, Giffords won her party's nomination in the primary election.

Her Republican opponent in the general election was Randy Graf, a conservative former state senator known for his enforcement-only position on immigration and illegal aliens. Graf had run against Jim Kolbe in the 2004 GOP primary and had announced his candidacy in 2006 before Kolbe announced his retirement. The Republican establishment was somewhat cool toward Graf, believing he may be be too conservative for the district. The national GOP took the unusual step of endorsing one of the more moderate candidates in the primary; but Graf won anyway, helped by a split in the Republican moderate vote between two candidates.

Not long after the primary, Congressional Quarterly changed its rating of the race to "Leans Democrat." By late September, the national GOP had pulled most of its funding, effectively conceding the seat to Giffords.

Giffords won the race on November 7, 2006, with 54 percent of the vote. Graf received 42 percent. The rest of the vote went to minor candidates.

Graf's candidacy was mentioned frequently in the national media as a test case of voters' feelings toward immigration issues, and Giffords' victory was portrayed as evidence that Americans are accepting towards comprehensive immigration reform.[26] Graf did not even carry a majority in Cochise County, a border region where illegal immigration is an important local issue. Nonetheless, Arizona's continuing interest in the issue is evidenced by the fact that all propositions in the general election relating to restricting benefits to illegal aliens did pass by wide margins.


In 2008 Giffords was elected to a second term. Republican Tim Bee, a childhood classmate and former colleague in the Arizona State Senate, ran against her. Bee was then the Arizona State Senate President and was considered a strong challenger in this race. Giffords carried the race, winning 56.20 percent of the vote to Tim Bee's 41.45 percent.[27]

Personal life

Giffords' father, Spencer J. Giffords, was Jewish, and her mother, Gloria Kay Fraser, practiced Christian Science.[28] Through her paternal grandmother, Giffords is related to actress Gwyneth Paltrow.[28] Giffords identifies with Judaism and is Arizona's first Jewish Congresswoman,[29] though she is not the first member of that faith to represent Arizona in Washington. Democrat Sam Coppersmith served one term in the House from 1993 to 1995, and Republican Sam Steiger served in the House from 1967 to 1977. Former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater's father was Jewish and Goldwater referred to himself as half-Jewish.

After Hurricane Katrina struck in the late summer of 2005, Giffords spent time as a volunteer in Houston, Texas, helping those displaced by the storm. She wrote about her experience in the Tucson Citizen.[30]

Giffords is an avid reader and was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition on July 9, 2006. She discussed books she was currently reading, including First Man, a biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong and The Heartless Stone a book by Tom Zoellner about the intricacies of the diamond industry across several continents. Congresswoman Giffords was periodically interviewed together with Illinois Republican Peter Roskam on NPR's All Things Considered. The series focused on their experiences as freshman members of the 110th Congress.

Giffords married astronaut Mark E. Kelly on November 10, 2007. He was the space shuttle's pilot on STS-108 and STS-121. STS-121 in 2006 was the first shuttle mission to launch on the Fourth of July. Giffords participated in a NASA tradition when she selected "Beautiful Day" by U2 as one of the wake-up calls for the STS-121 shuttle crew. On May 31, 2008, Kelly rocketed toward the heavens for the third time as Commander of STS-124. This mission in to space marked the first time an astronaut was married to a sitting member of the U.S. Congress.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Congresswoman's husband now in orbit
  3. ^ "Gifford's campaign website". Retrieved 2007-05-08. 
  4. ^ "Right-Wing Agenda Will Obscure our Most-Pressing Issues". Tucson Citizen (republished on candidate's web site). January 10, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  5. ^ "Flunkies — The Sierra Club grades the Arizona Legislature". Candidate's web site. June 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  6. ^ "Track Record". Candidate's web site. June 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  7. ^ THOMAS Search Results: H.R.1441. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-03-09
  8. ^ House Votes Again To Ban Sales Of F-14 Parts To Iran., June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-09
  9. ^ Stanton, Billie. Stanton: Democrats damned by Iraq war vote. Tucson Citizen June 5, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-09
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Candidate's track record". Candidate's web site. June 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Giffords Seen as Successor to Kolbe". La Voz (republished on candidate's web site and translated to English). June 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  19. ^ "With Unemployment Near Ten Percent, Giffords Seeks Importation of More Cheap Foreign Labor". FAIR. October 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  20. ^ "InformationWeek". 
  21. ^ "Architecture and Design, April 2009.". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  22. ^ "Tucson Daily Star, "Arizona Congressional Talk is, in a word, revealing," April 18, 2009.". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  23. ^ "The Science Coalition". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  24. ^ "EMILY's List Announces Endorsement of Gabrielle Giffords for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District". Emily's List. June 14, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  25. ^ "Democratic contender gets support in House race". Phoenix Business Journal. June 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-09. 
  26. ^ "Voters reject immigrant-bashing among candidates". San Jose Mercury News. November 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. 
  27. ^ Pima County Election Results.
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^ Gelbart, Debra Morton (2006-11-08). "Ms. Giffords goes to Congress". JTA News Service ( Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  30. ^ "Gifford's campaign website". Retrieved 2007-05-08. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Kolbe
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Representatives to the 110th and 111th United States Congresses from Arizona (ordered by seniority)
110th Senate: J. McCain | J. Kyl House: E. Pastor | J. Shadegg | J. Flake | T. Franks | R. Grijalva | R. Renzi | G. Giffords | H. Mitchell
111th Senate: J. McCain | J. Kyl House: E. Pastor | J. Shadegg | J. Flake | T. Franks | R. Grijalva | G. Giffords | H. Mitchell | A. Kirkpatrick

Simple English

Gabrielle Giffords is an American politician. She was born June 8th, 1970[1]. She is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives. She was critically injured January 8th, 2011 during a shooting in Tucson, Arizona, though she survived the shooting. Giffords was shot in the head.


  1. "Gabrielle Giffords". Retrieved January 26, 2011. 


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