Rep. Giffords to step down from Congress to focus on recovery

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is stepping down from Congress to focus full-time on her recovery from a shooting which left her severely injured, her office announced Sunday.

"I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week," Giffords announced in a video message posted on her website. "I am getting better," she added.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced that she would call a special election to fill Giffords's seat.

“Upon the Congresswoman’s office being officially declared vacant, I will call a special Primary and General Election in order to fill the 8th Congressional District vacancy, in accordance with Arizona law," said Brewer in a statement. "The winner will complete the remainder of Congresswoman Giffords’ term, which expires at the end of 2012.”


Giffords's announcement comes almost exactly a year after the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona where six people died and thirteen, including Giffords, were injured.

A gunman opened fire at an event with constituents and Giffords, the target of the attack, was shot at close range. 

Since the shooting, the three-term Arizona congresswoman has recovered her ability to speak and walk in what some of her doctors have hailed as a miracle.

In an email message to supporters of the congresswoman, her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, said that "while Gabby has been working hard with a grueling schedule of rehabilitation, her mind has never been far from Arizona and her responsibility to serving her constituents the only way she knows how - by giving 100% percent."

Kelly added that while Giffords "was hopeful that she would return to work this year, she has recently determined that it will take more time."

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Giffords plans to finish the Congress On Your Corner event she was hosting for constituents when she was shot. 

Giffords also plans to attend President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday. 

Rep. Giffords was considered a rising star in the Democratic party and, before the shooting, was reportedly laying the groundwork to run for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) seat.

In response to the announcement, the president praised her as an "inspiration" and said that her "cheerful presence will be missed in Washington."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Giffords's recovery courageous.

"Since the tragic events one year ago, Gabby has been an inspiring symbol of determination and courage to millions of Americans," Pelosi said in a statement. "I join all my colleagues in Congress in thanking Gabby for the honor of calling her colleague and wishing Gabby and Mark great success and happiness.  

“She will be missed in the House of Representatives, but her legacy in the Congress and her leadership for our nation will certainly continue," said Pelosi.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.) also said Giffords would be missed. 

"We salute Rep. Giffords for her service, & for the courage & perseverance she has shown in the face of tragedy," Boehner tweeted. "She will be missed."

In a post on her Facebook page, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), a close friend of Giffords, praised her as "an incredible public servant and friend."

"We will miss you in Congress, but you have already done so much for America," she said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Giffords's decision was the right one for her and her family.

"For the past year, Gabby has shown the world the person I have always known – an extraordinary woman of fierce drive, determination and courage," Gillibrand said in a statement.

"Gabby made the right decision for her and her family, but this is just the beginning of the next chapter of her story. I know that Gabby will find other ways to fulfill her calling of public service and continue to lead and inspire the nation. I feel blessed to call Gabby Giffords a dear friend and look forward to supporting her in whatever she decides to do next," she added.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) praised Giffords in a statement as a "noble public servant to the State of Arizona, and a model of what can be accomplished with persistence and determination.

"Her remarkable recovery over the last year is an inspiration to us all," she said.

On Jan. 8, 2012 Giffords participated in a candlelight vigil and later led the audience at in the Pledge of Allegiance at a memorial held one year after the shooting. That day was also marked by a bell-ringing ceremony at 10:11 a.m., at the exact moment a year before when the gunman opened fire in the Safeway parking lot where Giffords was holding a district event. Giffords also paid tribute to slain staffer Gabriel Zimmerman who was killed in the shooting.

In December, the House passed a unanimous resolution naming a room in the Capitol Visitor Center after Zimmerman, who was the first congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.

Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused by the federal government of the shooting, is still in custody awaiting trial.

This story was posted at 2:02 p.m. and has been updated.