Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords called Monday afternoon, after riding a horse Saturday in a Willcox parade — "I didn't get bucked off," she reported — and armed with the endorsements of Republican moderates in her race with conservative Republican Jesse Kelly.
Among those giving their support are familiar people — former District 26 Rep. Pete Hershberger, former District 25 Rep. Jennifer Burns, corporations commission chair Kris Mayes, Sahuarita Mayor Lynne Skelton, and Oro Valley resident and retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. John Wickham.
"I am humbled to have a diverse representation of high-profile Republicans come together publicly at the Pima County Courthouse to talk about why they're supporting me," Giffords said.
Giffords and Kelly may now be in a race for the middle, those people within District 8 who are undecided, and perhaps more moderate than the rest. It's clear for whom the Democrats are voting, as well as the conservative Republicans in the district. Those who'll decide the race — and some are saying it's a single-digit contest at this point — are those undecideds toward the center.
"I'm a moderate," Giffords said Monday. It may not be sexy, or fashionable, she says, recognizing that "fire and brimstone and fear-mongering, on both sides, gets more attention and media." She is "the most centrist member of the entire Arizona delegation," and "smack dab in the middle of all 435 members" of Congress.
That's not what her opponents believe, of course. They're assigning her the record of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, with regard to health care legislation and the rest. A billboard on I-10 depicts Giffords as a puppet to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Her campaign has reportedly challenged the lack of attribution on the billboard; her opponents say it was put up by Dwight Jones, owner of Jones Outdoor Advertising, exercising his First Amendment rights. Blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah … but you get the point.
That billboard, and the endless soundbyte commercials (and, we must lament, precious little in-depth messaging), add to the superficial debate. A Giffords TV commercial says Kelly wants to do away with Social Security, which is out-of-context and absurd. Kelly, who's struck back on TV, went to a forum Monday to discuss "his plan to protect Social Security while also giving younger workers more choices when saving for the future." Giffords says Social Security is on solid financial ground into the 2030s. They're both right; there's money, now, but the demographics suggest the current funding model for Social Security is untenable, and America needs to find the political will to fix it. Never mind that one in six Americans are now on federal- and state-funded Medicaid. That's 48 million people.
"The problems facing Americans are not just facing Republicans or Democrats, so the solutions cannot be partisan," she said. "The problems are not partisan problems."
That's so true. And, as Social Security and Medicaid illustrate, America's problems are remarkably complex.
Giffords says she's a problem-solver, pointing to the border as a place where action is being taken. Kelly has to demonstrate that he, too, can solve problems. Because that's what the district, and the country, truly need.
In this move toward the middle, District 8 voters are going to decide where Giffords and Kelly stand with regard to their personal political perspectives. Please pay attention.