by Jim Nintzel
State Sen. Frank Antenori, who has been weighing a congressional run in the Southern Arizona district now represented by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was surprised by her announcement today that she would resign later this week.
Antenori, who had been anticipating that Giffords would announce that she was not seeking reelection but would finish out her term, said he “taken off balance by her stepping down.”
Antenori said he is meeting with his campaign team this evening to determine if he should run in the special election to replace Giffords. The primary for the special election will be sometime in April and the general special election will be sometime in June. Then candidates who want to keep the seat next year will have to win a primary election in the new Congressional District 2 in August and a general election in November.
“I’m looking at it,” said Antenori. "It changes the political calculus."
Antenori did not anticipate making any announcement about plans to run for office for at least a few days, while Giffords is finishing her final days in office.
“She took a bullet for her country, just like many other people that I know, and she’s to be commended for that,” said Antenori, who served in the Army Special Forces. “Whether it’s a veteran or a congresswoman, they’re to be respected for that degree of sacrifice. We may disagree on politics, but the respect for being wounded is exclusive of political affiliation.”
John Ellinwood, who served as the campaign spokesman for Jesse Kelly, the Republican candidate who came within a few thousand votes of unseating Giffords in 2010, said that Kelly did not know if he would run in the special election.
Kelly has been working in Texas in recent months for his father’s construction company, Don Kelly Construction, but he still owns a home in Arizona.
“He is busy with work and family and only God knows what his future will hold,” Ellinwood said.
Sports broadcaster Dave Sitton, who has established an exploratory campaign for the congressional seat, could not be reached for comment.