Most Americans did not know who Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords was before January 8, but after the horrific events that took place on that day, all Americans, not just Arizonans, have come to recognize the congresswoman.
To get a glimpse o who she is as a person and what her stand is on certain issues, Pajamas Media interviewed non-family members, many of them Republicans, who spoke highly of her.
Unanimously, everyone describes her with the same multitude of adjectives: genuine, decent, hardworking, outgoing, honest, warm, personable, and energetic. Jonathan Paton, who grew up with Giffords, feels that people respond to her because “she is like the girl next door.”
She is from our area. For example, at an event, a friend of mine, a Republican state representative, as conservative as you could get, stuck her hand out to shake Gabby’s hand. Gabby said to her I am not a hand shaker; I am a hugger. She hugged her on the spot, right there.
Giffords has a strong identity with Judaism and cherishes her Jewish heritage. She is the first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona. Her rabbi, Stephanie Aaron, told Pajamas Media that the congresswoman would meet with her to discuss how Jewish women can make an impact. While running for Congress, Giffords responded to a question by stating:
Growing up, my family’s Jewish roots and tradition played an important role in shaping my values. The women in my family served as strong role models for me as a girl.
Rabbi Aaron is impressed:
Gabby listens, pays attention, and is the female version of a mensch: someone who is truly a moral and ethical person. Young girls in the congregation looked upon her as a role model, a very successful Jewish woman to be proud of and to emulate. Gabby has the ability to transcend generations and political parties.
Paton, who ran against Giffords, and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) emphasized that they disagreed with her on many of the core issues of 2010. Yet, as Flake pointed out:
[B]ecause she is such a decent person and easy to talk to, even with our political disparity, we could at least discuss issues reasonably. We were able to work together on issues involving the military and aspects of border security.
Giffords considers herself a Blue Dog Democrat who tries to maintain a balance in a district that is made up of extremes on the left and right, and has a Republican majority. She voted for ObamaCare, cap and trade, and the stimulus bill. On the other hand, she is a strong proponent of ensuring Israel’s safety, supports E-Verify, favors offshore oil drilling, wants to reduce the national debt, wants to establish an alternative energy program, strongly believes in the Second Amendment, and pushes for tighter border security.
How could Congresswoman Giffords win a district with a Republican majority? Kelly Glenn-Kimbro, a staunch Republican, said:
[P]eople have asked me how can I support a Democrat? Well, you name me one politician that you agree with 100% on their voting record. It’s like what President Reagan said: “A person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and ally, not a 20% traitor.”
Congressman Flake echoed that sentiment:
Gabby was living proof that true tolerance is not pretending you have no differences. It’s being kind and decent to each other in spite of those differences.
Dr. Gary Thrasher, a veterinarian rancher, strongly supported her and voted for her in 2010. He describes himself as a “Goldwater Republican, about as far right as there is”:
But I believe Gabby Giffords has been the best representative we ever had. We don’t always agree with her and we let her know it. You can argue with her, talk to her, and she will always listen. I trust her.
The ranchers, all hardcore Republicans, support her because she is on the front line with them in improving border security. Before Giffords, all officials, including Republicans, never took a tour of the remote areas where border security has grown much worse.
After her 2006 election, Giffords held meetings with the ranchers, visited and camped out in some of the roughest areas where the border was wide open, and set up conference calls between the ranchers and government officials in charge of border security. The ranchers said she is constantly an advocate for tighter border controls because she sees it as a national security issue.
Steve Brophy, a Republican and president of Arizona’s Cattle Growers’ Association, presented to Giffords an award in July 2010, and explained to Pajamas Media,
If you want to look around for people who get it and have the ability and willingness to act on it, Gabby Giffords stands in the forefront. She gives a darn about us as people.
He also cites her efforts on pushing through the 600 million dollar emergency border security funding for additional border agents and unmanned aircraft.
Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) is impressed by Congresswoman Giffords’ efforts to reach out to Republicans on the immigration issue, noting:
She is a sharp lady. She understands that you cannot secure the border without securing the workplace. It is an approach she feels more comfortable with because it does not target the illegal immigrants. It targets the illegal employers.
As a gun owner, Giffords is a big proponent of the Second Amendment. She believes that gun ownership is a tradition that should not be denied. Although she is against the sale of semi-automatic weapons, she voted to repeal the ban on hand guns to correct the D.C. law, supported measures that would bar the Interior Department from prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm in a national park or wildlife refuge, and is in favor of carrying a concealed weapon.
Because she believes America must free itself of dependence on Arab oil, she is an advocate of solar energy. Kristin Mayes, the former Republican chairperson of Arizona’s public utilities commission and currently the director of Arizona’s new program on law and sustainability, worked closely with Giffords on solar energy issues. Mayes and Giffords disseminated information about solar energy, co-hosted solar bus tours for the community, and worked together to make Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson the largest statewide solar powered community. According to Mayes, Representative Giffords is one of the most influential members of Congress on issues related to renewable energy, including extending tax credits.
All those interviewed felt that her accessibility in helping her constituents, including small business, veterans, and military families, is second to none. She strives to make things right and appeals to both Republicans and Democrats. Mayes summed up everyone’s feelings that “Gabby is very pragmatic and results oriented. She does not just talk the talk but also walks the walk. She is very bi-partisan. We need her back here in Arizona.”
And America needs her back on Capitol Hill.