Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is an outspoken opponent of SB1070, the Arizona immigration law. That’s an inconvenient thing to have on the books in a district where 70% of residents support the measure, especially when she’s up for re-election this cycle.
Giffords is rounding out her second term in office, and was re-elected in 2008 mostly by convincing the very centrist voters in Arizona’s eighth district that she was in line with their moderate political views. But her opposition to SB1070, combined with her “aye” votes on cap-and-trade and health care, blew her “moderate” label out of the water.
Perhaps sensing her vulnerability, Giffords has recently called for National Guard troops to be deployed to the border, but still maintains opposition to the state law. Giffords has also embarked on a very public letter-writing campaign to try and appease groups who are boycotting Arizona on the grounds that the law is racist.
The letter-writing may not accomplish anything, but it’s not a bad stunt for someone who has a reputation of being one of the nicest Members of Congress. Giffords is one of the youngest Members currently serving, and her marriage to astronaut Mark Kelly while in office was covered extensively by the New York Times and local media outlets.
She received some less romantic publicity when she voted for the health care bill, after extensive indecision. Giffords initially voiced opposition to some of the Senate language, but said if and when that language was corrected, she would support it. Sure enough, she was an “aye” when Nancy Pelosi whipped the votes. That’s just one move that has prompted Republican opponents to create an advertisement with Giffords as a puppet, responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In the advertisement, the Pelosi-puppet says "Gabby dear, I need your vote on government-run health care." Giffords’ puppet then says: "Whatever you say, mama Nancy." Pelosi says: "Gabby honey, you know I'm counting on you for cap and trade." Giffords responds: "Whatever you say, mama Nancy." Consultants have said the advertisement, put out by the Conservatives for Congress Committee in Tucson, is devastating.
But Giffords has the money to fight back, with a war chest of at least $2 million, compared with $500,000 from her nearest GOP competitor, Jonathan Paton. Paton dropped out of the state Senate to run against Giffords, and is among five Republicans fighting it out in the August 24 primary. They are all are amping up the rhetoric on immigration and health care, and have an interesting mix of strongly conservative and libertarian views.
Paton says he’s banking on Giffords’ left-ward shift since she started office – a trend that he says stems from her liberal years a state legislator. Paton thinks that Giffords’ re-election in 2006 made her too comfortable voting with the left.
“I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing, but the shift occurred when she thought she had a safe race [in 2006],” he said.