by Jim Nintzel
Although the June 12 Congressional District 8 special election will decide her replacement, we've seen very little of Gabby Giffords' presence in the race between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Jesse Kelly.
Sure, Giffords asked Barber to seek the seek and she and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, both have endorsed Barber for this run and the Congressional District 2 race in the fall. She and Mark Kelly (no relation to Jesse Kelly) have helped Barber with a fundraising pitch. And the Arizona Democratic Party sent out a mailer in recent weeks reinforcing Giffords' endorsement.
But as the race hits the final stretch, we're seeing more of Giffords. We had the announcement yesterday that she'd be coming to town for a concert and rally at the Rialto Theatre this Saturday, June 9. And today, the House Majority PAC, a super PAC that aids Democrats, unleashed a new ad recapping some of Jesse Kelly's more radical positions—eliminating corporate taxes and the minimum wage—as well as reminding viewers of what Kelly said about Giffords in the last election.
Jesse Kelly said those things about Giffords before she was shot (you can see the entire speech by Kelly here; it's a much more angry Jesse Kelly than we've seen on the campaign trail in 2012). But some people still hold a grudge against him for his rhetoric in that campaign, as Tom Zoellner wrote about in a recent Tucson Weekly:
Kelly went after Giffords with an odd sense of vengeance, and his campaign painted her as a brainless puppet of Nancy Pelosi and the president. Violent images were part of his rhetoric. He helpfully compared Mexican border-crossers to Islamic terrorists and said government employees were "putrid" and had no love of their country. "Send a warrior to Congress" was his tagline.
He notoriously encouraged supporters to shoot an M16 with him to raise money for her defeat. He led Republicans in chants of "Gabby's gotta go!" during a Tea Party rally at Hi Corbett Field.
Kelly said this at a candidate forum, in reference to two previous campaigns in which the discussion had been respectful: "Gabrielle Giffords, your time's coming, because you've had patty-cake played with you twice. We play to win. We play to win on this campaign. ... We're coming."
I worked on that campaign for Gabrielle and will never forget the way she was personally vilified in the months leading up to the massacre—the way that it became acceptable to talk about her as though she was a traitor to her country and somebody less than human. Gabrielle had seen her office windows smashed several months before, and wondered out loud during the election if the partisan ugliness might persuade some nut to take a gun to one of her events and shoot her.