Childhood & Early Life
Giffords was born on June 8, 1970, in Tucson, Arizona, to a Jewish father, Spencer Giffords, and a Christian Scientist mother, Gloria Kay (née Fraser). She was raised in a mixed religious environment but follows Judaism now. Her father looked after their family business, ‘El Campo Tire Warehouses,’ and was a member of the district school board. Her mother was an author and an art restorer.
Giffords has an older sister named Melissa and an older half-brother named Alejandro. Her childhood adventures included summer camping with Melissa across the border, in Mexico. With a liking for horses, she worked in the stable to pay for her riding lessons.
Giffords graduated in 1988 from the ‘University High School’ in Tucson. She was a ‘Girl Scout,’ too. She studied at ‘Scripps College,’ a women’s college in California, and received a BA degree in sociology and Latin American history in 1993. She then earned a ‘William Fulbright Scholarship’ and studied in Chihuahua, Mexico, for a year. In 1996, she got a master’s degree in regional planning from ‘Cornell University,’ Ithaca, New York.
After completing her studies, she worked for six months as an associate at ‘Price Waterhouse’ in New York City. She returned to Tucson to work as the CEO of her family business, ‘El Campo Tire Warehouses.’ In 2000, she sold the company to ‘Goodyear Tire.’
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While working in Tucson, Giffords took interest in helping her community. At 18, inspired by ‘Supreme Court’ justice Sandra Day O’Connor, she registered as a ‘Republican.’ However, in 1999, she switched to the ‘Democratic Party.’
In 2001, she was elected to the ‘Arizona House of Representatives.’ She served in this post till 2003. In 2002, she ran for the ‘Arizona Senate’ and won, thereby becoming the youngest woman elected to the ‘Arizona Senate.’ She joined the ‘Senate’ in 2003 and was re-elected in 2004.
While in the legislature office, Giffords worked on issues such as healthcare costs and low educational achievements. Her work on bills concerning mental health earned her the honor of the 2004 ‘Legislature of the Year,’ awarded by the ‘Mental Health Association of Arizona.’ In 2003, she received the ‘Outstanding Legislature Award,’ awarded by the ‘Arizona Family Literacy’ program, for her efforts in improving education and healthcare of her state’s children.
In December 2005, she resigned from the ‘Senate’ to run for the elections for the ‘US House of Representatives.’ The 8th congressional district seat in Arizona was being vacated by Representative Jim Kolbe, and Gifford announced her candidacy for that seat on January 24, 2006. She was endorsed by important ‘Democrats,’ including Bill Clinton. She was nominated by her party after a primary election on September 12, 2006.
On November 7, 2006, she won the elections with 54% of the votes. Her opponent, ‘Republican’ Randy Graf, secured 42% of the votes. She became the first woman of Jewish descent to be elected to the ‘Congress’ from Arizona.
For her second term elections in 2008, Gifford faced a tough challenge from ‘Republican’ candidate Timothy Bee, who was the president of the ‘Arizona State Senate’ and her childhood classmate. She won the elections with 56.20% of the total votes. She was re-elected for her third term on November 5, 2010, when she won with a slim margin against ‘Republican’ candidate Jesse Kelly.
Gifford was the third woman from Arizona to join the US ‘Congress,’ when she was first sworn in on January 3, 2007. She addressed many issues concerning her state, such as issues related to immigrants and border security. She made efforts to work on the violence related to border security and drug-trafficking in the Mexico–Arizona border area. She conducted a drug violence summit with 60 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers.
She was also involved in a number of other developments, such as funding for embryonic stem-cell research, establishing the ‘Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve,’ and raising minimum wages. She endorsed a national day of recognition for cowboys and presented a bill to prohibit the sale of F-14 aircraft parts in the open market.
Giffords regularly hosted the ‘Congress on Your Corner’ gatherings in Tucson, where she met and spoke with her constituents.
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During her second term, she was a member of the ‘Armed Services’ and ‘Foreign Affairs’ committees. She was also part of the ‘Science, Space, and Technology Committee’ and served as the chairperson of the ‘Space and Aeronautics’ sub-committee. Giffords was a member of the fiscally conservative ‘Blue Dog Coalition,’ too.
During her third term, she supported the $600-million border security bill, which was later signed by President Barack Obama. This made it possible to hire a thousand border control agents and other additional personnel.
Giffords also advocated small-business tax relief and was an active supporter of the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ for which she had to face strong political opposition. Later, her office was vandalized. This was said to have been related to her support of the act.
On January 8, 2011, while Giffords was at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ meeting outside a ‘Safeway’ grocery store in Tucson, she was shot in the head from a close range, in an assassination attempt. 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner fired a 9mm pistol with a 33-round magazine, killing six (including a ‘District Court’ judge, a 9-year-old girl, and an aide to Giffords) and injuring 18 people. Reportedly, Giffords was the main target of this shooting.
Giffords was rushed to the ‘University Medical Center’ of Tucson and underwent an emergency surgery. Gradually, her condition stabilized and then improved. On January 21, she was shifted to the ‘Memorial Hermann Medical Center,’ and then to the ‘TIRR Memorial Hermann’ in Houston, for rehabilitation.
She had recovered sufficiently to travel to the ‘Kennedy Space Center,’ Florida, to witness the launch of her husband Mark Kelly’s final space shuttle mission, ‘Endeavour,’ on May 16, 2011.
On June 15, she returned home from the hospital.
Giffords attended the ‘House of Representatives’ on August 1, 2011, which was her first public appearance after the assassination attempt, to vote for “raising the debt limit ceiling.” She was greeted with a standing ovation and accolades. She could not fully use her right side and had trouble speaking. By then, she had also lost 50% vision in her eyes.
She submitted her resignation from her ‘Congress’ seat on January 25, 2012, as she needed to devote time to her recovery.
The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, faced trial for more than 50 federal criminal charges. In November 2012, he pleaded guilty in a plea bargain, to avoid a death sentence, and was sentenced to seven life terms and 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.