Watching Gabrielle Giffords -- and awaiting word -- at the Shanty tavern
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At the Shanty, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is known simply as Gabby.
The Irish tavern, on Tucson’s historic Fourth Avenue, had been a hangout for Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman would often come by to unwind with friends and chat with fellow Tucsonans.
So it seemed only right that many friends and supporters gathered at the pub Monday evening to again hear her voice.
About 60 people watched Giffords’ first interview since she was shot in the head in January while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, were interviewed by ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.
“Gabby is not only a friend, but absolutely the consummate politician that we like to see,” said owner Bill Nugent. “Everyone was excited to see the progress.”
The bar is a popular hangout for city politicians and bureaucrats as well as college students and regular Joes, Nugent said. Giffords would visit to “get her ear to the ground,” he said, but she would never put on an act in front of possible voters.
“We really just know Gabby as Gabby,” Nugent said.
He added: “In a state that has such curious politicians, it’s refreshing.”
On Monday night, there were tears and laughs from the people watching Giffords being interviewed. But, over pizza and beer, one question was on everyone’s mind, Nugent said.
“We’re hoping to hear whether or not she was committed to running again,” he said. “I think she will.”
At one point in the ABC News interview, Sawyer asked Giffords about that -- and the congresswoman struggled to find the right words.
“No. Better,” she said at first. Her husband interjected, saying, “She wants to get better.”
So Giffords would run again if she gets better? Sawyer asked. “Yes, yes, yes,” Giffords said.
Were Giffords to seek a fourth term, the filing deadline is in May.
Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a friend of the congresswoman, said in an interview that she expects Giffords to run again. “If it’s up to Gabby and her will power and her spirit, you bet,” she said. “That’s Gabby; she’s tough as nails.”
Giffords’ offices in Washington and Arizona carried on with business as usual the day after the Sawyer interview, continuing to accept a steady stream of supportive messages, said Mark Kimble, her senior press officer.
“Last night, the rest of the world had an opportunity to see what those of us who work for her have already seen,” Kimble said. “We’re all inspired by her, continue to be inspired by her and are very anxious to have her back in Washington.”
But Kimble says he and the rest of Giffords’ staff in both Washington and Arizona are far from twiddling their thumbs until then. Media coverage of Giffords has led to more requests from her constituents -- a 25% increase since January.
At any given time, staff members are working on about 1,000 cases, most of which involve foreclosures and active-duty soldiers’ healthcare, he said. Staff members have worked on more than 2,500 cases this year, about four times the average constituent caseload for Congress members’ offices.
-- Stephen Ceasar in Los Angeles and Alexa Vaughn in Washington