You are hereTuscon Herald-Mail: Will Gabrielle Giffords keep her House seat?

Tuscon Herald-Mail: Will Gabrielle Giffords keep her House seat?

It's unclear when or if the Arizona congresswoman recovering from gunshot wounds might return to work, but her staff is keeping her offices running, and not even political opponents are talking about vacating her seat.

January 19, 2011- About a dozen staff members were hard at work in the district office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Tuesday, even as their boss remained hospitalized across town.

There were refugee immigration cases to take care of, a Bronze Star to present to a Korean War veteran and dozens of well-wishers arriving with gifts, including lunch platters and plastic bracelets labeled "Remember 1-8-11."

Two staff members have yet to return: Ron Barber, the office director, and Pamela Simon, the outreach coordinator, who were both wounded in the Jan. 8 shooting.

Daniel Hernandez, 20, the intern who ran to help Giffords after she was shot, stopped by to pitch in. So did the father of Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, the Giffords aide who was killed in the rampage.

Giffords' staff members, who have kept the office open since the shooting, said they were operating on the assumption that the three-term Democratic congresswoman would eventually return to work.

"She fought really hard in the last election to have the right to remain in this job," spokesman Mark Kimble said. "We're just going to have to hold things together the best we can until she can get back."

The question on many constituents' minds in the last week has been whether Giffords will ever be able to return to her job.

Dr. Michael Lemole, who is treating Giffords at Tucson's University Medical Center, said she would probably leave the hospital within about a week to begin rehabilitation.

But he said there was no way to know how long it would be before she could return to work — or whether that would even be possible.

"We've seen the full spectrum of recoveries after an incident like this," he said. "At the end of the day, we'll have to see her do what she does."

Some Arizona legal experts had raised the possibility that Giffords' seat could be vacated under state law if she were unable to return to Congress within 90 days. But a spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State's Office said that law only applied to state and local officials.

Regardless, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said the governor had no intention of calling for a special election or trying to vacate the seat in any way. "We've deemed it to be far too early and entirely inappropriate to speculate, analyze or consider," Paul Senseman said.

A spokesman for Jesse Kelly, the Republican who ran against Giffords in the last election, said Kelly had not made any inquiries about filling the seat. "Everyone's emotions are very raw," John Ellinwood said. "What we'd like to see happen is a full recovery."



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