by Jim Nintzel
Tomorrow’s special election has brought Gabby Giffords back to Tucson this week.
Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, flew into Tucson this weekend to attend the get-out-the-vote concert and rally for Democrat Ron Barber, who is facing Republican Jesse Kelly in the June 12 special election to complete Giffords’ term.
Giffords watched Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta and Calexico—her favorite band—from backstage, where she got to see Calexico do a cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” a song she picked as a wake-up number for the astronauts on one of Mark Kelly’s shuttle missions.
She and Mark Kelly came out to address the crowd before the Calexico performance—and then came back out during the finale of “Guero Canelo,” where they danced alongside the band.
Giffords, who is still struggling to find her voice in the wake of being shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, said little on Saturday night, other than thanking the crowd for a warm welcome when she took the stage.
Mark Kelly did the speaking for the two, encouraging the crowd to support Barber, who was Giffords’ district director when she represented Congressional District 8, in tomorrow’s election.
“For us—for Gabby and I, and members of the Giffords’ family—this is more than just an ordinary election,” Mark Kelly said. “This is a little bit about closure. This is closure on Gabby’s career in Congress. It wasn’t when she resigned in January. I really truly believe that it’s this coming Tuesday. So I want to thank you but I also want to encourage you to not only get out there tomorrow and Monday and Tuesday, and make sure Ron gets elected, but also bring your friends.”
On Sunday, Giffords and Mark Kelly made the rounds alongside Barber and his wife, Nancy, visiting the offices of Barber’s campaign and the Pima County Democratic Party to thank volunteers for their hard work.
At Barber’s office, Giffords had brief one-on-one meetings with a number of the volunteers, smiling and thanking them for helping to get out the vote.
Mark Kelly told the Weekly that he and Giffords want to see Barber win on Tuesday.
“She really wants to be here—and I do, too—to help see that Ron gets elected,” Mark Kelly said. “It’s not because they used to work together. It’s because Ron is, in our opinion, the right choice to represent the people in this district. He’s got the experience. He ran a small business, but he’s been a public servant. He understands these issues very well. Ron is a very reasonable person who is able to work across party lines to get things done, much like Gabby did.”
Mark Kelly said that Giffords is doing physical and speech rehab therapy six days a week.
“She still works very, very hard,” he said. “This rehab is a long, long process for her. As you know, she suffered a devastating injury and it’s going to take some time before she can get back to work. And she’s motivated to do that.”
Giffords remains eager to return to Tucson, he said.
“Gabby has Tucson running through her blood,” Mark Kelly said. “We will be living here full time at some point. She’ll be back her and hopefully, she’ll be doing some kind of public service. We don’t know what that will be, but she’s looking forward to getting back.”
The couple is exploring the idea of creating a Gabby PAC to support the issues that are important to Giffords.
“We don’t know exactly what it will be, but she wants to continue to focus on those issues that have been very important to her—veterans, renewable energy. Those things she focused on when she was in Congress.”