by Jim Nintzel
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic incumbent who is facing GOP challenger Jesse Kelly in the Nov. 2 election, rolled out the 2010 version of Republicans for Giffords today.
Among her GOP supporters: former state lawmakers Pete Hershberger and Jennifer Burns, who both served with Giffords in the Arizona Legislature; Sahuarita Mayor Lynne Skelton; Sierra Vista Mayor Bob Strain; the Tucson Police Department’s Larry Lopez, who heads up the Tucson Police Officers Association and the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs, a statewide law-enforcement union that has endorsed Giffords; Lisa Lovallo of Cox Communications; and developer John Wesley Miller.
“Gabrielle Giffords gives us the representation that we want,” said Hershberger, who served eight years in the Arizona House of Representatives but lost a 2008 Senate primary to incumbent freshman Sen. Al Melvin in Legislative District 26. “She’s smart, hard-working and listens to us in Southern Arizona. … She works across party lines to craft solutions.
“We want a representative who will take a practical, common-sense approach to governance, not ideological political purism,” Hershberger added at today's press conference. “Congresswoman Giffords is a statesman, not a partisan.”
Strain praised Giffords’ work to safeguard the border, help Fort Huachuca and protect the San Pedro River, while Skelton said Giffords had helped the town land federal transportation dollars to better deal with its rapid growth.
Lopez leans further to the right than some of the other GOP officials who were at today's press conference, but he called the state police union’s endorsement of Giffords “a no-brainer,” citing Giffords’ efforts to help establish national training standards for law enforcement, her fight to bring federal dollars back to Tucson and her willingness to listen.
“Out of all the lawmakers at the federal level, Gabby is probably the most accessible one,” Lopez says. “Whether I’m in D.C. or she’s here—and she comes here a lot—she keeps in contact with us.”
Lopez says that Giffords gave a big boost to the city of Tucson last week by helping secure a federal grant worth $12.3 million. Lopez says that will help the city pay the salary of 50 cops.
“It’s enormous,” Lopez says. “It’s not going to solve all our problems, but it’s a big, positive thing. It’s something our officers can grasp onto and know that there are people out there who are supporting them.”
Kelly, who wants to sharply cut back on all discretionary funding by the federal government, has been critical throughout his campaign about Giffords’ efforts to deliver federal money to Fort Huachuca, Davis-Monthan AFB, the University of Arizona and other recipients of earmark dollars. He’s vowed that he won’t seek that kind of federal aid for Southern Arizona.
But last week, Kelly stopped short of condemning the new money for Tucson police. Via e-mail, Kelly tried to turn the issue toward illegal immigration by saying that the money would not have been necessary if more had been spent on securing the border.
Lopez chuckled at that notion.
“That’s not how it works,” says Lopez, who says that the city’s budget problems are at the root of the shortfall of dollars for police officers.
ETA: The Kelly campaign declined to name any prominent Democrats who would be supporting the GOP nominee, but said via e-mail that Kelly was gaining support from voters from across the political spectrum who were disappointed in Giffords' record.