Daniel Hernandez Jr., the former intern credited with helping to save Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life when she was shot in 2011 and now an elected member of a Tucson-area school board, is facing a nasty recall election in which anonymous opponents are attacking him for being openly gay and for his advocacy on behalf of gun violence prevention.
The story behind the recall is the kind of byzantine saga found only in local politics. Four of the five members of the Sunnyside Unified School District, which includes parts of Tucson and surrounding areas, are now facing recall petitions - two members who faced recall for their support of an embattled schools superintendent turned around and filed recall petitions on two members who opposed the superintendent, including Hernandez.
But the tactics being used against Hernandez are unusual. A source in the district sends us two flyers that Hernandez’s opponents are reportedly handing out to parents dropping their children off at schools in the district. Right Wing Watch repeatedly tried to contact Marcos Castro, the manager of the effort to recall Hernandez and brother in law of school board president Louie Gonzalez, to discover whether the flyers came from his campaign, but Castro refused to take our calls. [UPDATE: Castro tells us that he himself got one of the flyers left at his house but he has “no knowledge” of where they came from.]
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Friday visited the Connecticut town where a gunman killed 26 people last month inside an elementary school.
Giffords, who was shot and critically wounded in the 2011Tucson shooting in which six people were killed and a dozen others were wounded, met with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Newtown’s first selectman, according to Sue Marcinek, an assistant to the selectman. Giffords was accompanied by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.
She was planning to meet later Friday with families of some of the Newtown victims, according to Steve Jensen, a spokesman for Wyman.
Giffords was left partially blind, with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury, when a gunman opened fire at a constituent meet-and-greet outside a grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011.
The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges and was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years.
Kelly said on the day of the Newtown shooting that it should lead to better gun control.
“This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence,” Kelly said on his Facebook page, calling for “a meaningful discussion about our gun laws and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America.”
The man who pleaded guilty in the Arizona shooting rampage will be sentenced Thursday for the attack that left six people dead and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
The sentencing hearing will mark the first time that victims will confront Jared Lee Loughner in court about the January 2011 shooting at a Giffords political event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.
Prosecutors say an unspecified number of victims will comment before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentences Loughner, though it’s unknown whether Giffords or her husband plan to attend or have a statement read on their behalf. Three shooting victims have told The Associated Press that they intend to comment at the hearing.
The 24-year-old had pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges under an agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The deal calls for the dismissal of 30 other charges and a sentence of seven consecutive life terms, followed by 140 years in prison.
Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty Tuesday to going on a shooting rampage at a political gathering, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including his intended target, then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner’s plea spares him the death penalty and came soon after a federal judge found that months of forcibly medicating him to treat his schizophrenia had made the 23-year-old college dropout competent.
At one point, Judge Larry A. Burns asked Loughner if he understood the charges against him and what the government would need to convict him.
“Yes, I understand,” Loughner replied.
The judge said that Loughner was a different person and that he is able to help his lawyers in his defense. Burns said that observing Loughner in the court left “no question that he understands what’s happening today.”
Loughner faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The outcome was welcomed by some victims, including Giffords herself, as a way to avoid a lengthy, possibly traumatic trial and years of legal wrangling over a death sentence.
“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable,” Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband, Mark Kelly. “Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery.”
Mavy Stoddard, who lost her husband in the massacre in Arizona last year that severely wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, plans to be in a federal courtroom this week to see if her prayers will be answered by a guilty plea from the man accused of the crime.
Stoddard, who has recovered from three gunshot wounds in a leg, said Sunday she’s “just thrilled” by news reports of a possible plea agreement that could send Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the rest of his life.
Tucson remembers rampage that wounded Giffords: In January, Arizonans marked the first anniversary of a shooting rampage in Tucson that left six dead and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
A person familliar with the case tells the Associated Press a possible plea deal in the deadly Tucson shootings that wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would send Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the rest of his life.
“I don’t really want the death penalty. I would love to see him either put in a mental institution or life in prison with no parole. Either one of them. If he can get some help, that’s what he needs. And maybe he will find the Lord,” Stoddard said in a telephone interview from her home in Tucson, Ariz.
A hearing in the federal case against Loughner is scheduled for Tuesday in Tucson, and a court-appointed psychiatrist is to testify that Loughner is competent to enter a plea, according to a person familiar with the case who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Loughner is expected to enter a guilty plea if the judge allows that to happen at the hearing, according to the person who spoke Saturday about upcoming court proceedings in the case.
Read it all here.
Jared Lee Loughner is set to plead guilty Tuesday in the shooting attack that severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to knowledgeable sources, as mental health officials believe he is now competent to understand the charges against him in the assault, which killed six people and injured 13 at a gathering with the congresswoman’s constituents in Tucson.
At the hearing Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Tucson, psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner, 23, are scheduled to testify that they have concluded that despite wide swings in his mental capacity, at this time he comprehends what happened and acknowledges the gravity of the charges, according to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was still unfolding.
The terms of the plea arrangement remained unclear Saturday on whether Loughner would admit guilt to all or some of the charges in return for a lengthy prison sentence rather than risk a potential death penalty verdict at trial.
Two anonymous sources, case still unfolding … I guess we’ll see next week.
Democrat Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabrielle Giffords who was injured in the shooting that nearly took the ex-Arizona congresswoman’s life, won the special election to replace her on Tuesday.
With 66 percent of precincts reporting, Barber led Republican Jesse Kelly 53 percent to 45 percent. The AP has called the race for Barber.
The contest was the last congressional special election before November’s general election, leaving both sides to mine the results for clues about what might work in November and who might have momentum on their side.
Giffords survived an assassination attempt in January 2011 and resigned her seat in Congress earlier this year to focus on her recovery. She supported Barber and campaigned on his behalf, but she played only a small role in the battle for a conservative-leaning southeastern Arizona district.
Instead, the race centered on Barber’s ties to the national Democratic Party and, more importantly, Kelly’s past statements about overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
The Democratic strategy appeared to have paid dividends in what is a Republican-leaning district. Barber’s win comes mostly as a result of Democratic efforts to define Kelly early on as being anti-Medicare and anti-Social Security in the 11th-oldest district in the country. In their ads, Democrats ran footage and quotes of Kelly
When Gabrielle Giffords began her first run for Congress in 2005, Ron Barber retired from his job and volunteered to help her. When she took office, Mr. Barber immediately signed on as her district director, hiring local staff members and arranging her events back home.
And when Ms. Giffords was shot in January 2011, Mr. Barber was just a few feet away. A bullet struck him near his groin, and another hit his cheek, exiting through his neck.
Last month, two weeks after Ms. Giffords stepped down from Congress, Mr. Barber announced that he would run for her seat.
Mr. Barber, 66, has spent much of the last year recovering from his injuries, with countless hours of physical therapy to regain movement in his left leg. Although Ms. Giffords’s Congressional office reopened days after the shooting, Mr. Barber was not well enough to return to work until July. Even then, he could stay in the office for only four hours at a time. By the time the doctor told him he was well enough to work full time, Mr. Barber was announcing his run in the June special election for the southern Arizona district.
In many ways, Mr. Barber’s bid seems obvious: he was constantly by Ms. Giffords’s side, sharing many of her political views and traveling through the district she represented. Since the shooting, he has been a regular presence on local television, sponsoring memorial events through a foundation he created.
But Mr. Barber, who worked for decades in social service administration, had promised his wife that he would never run for office. He describes himself as a reluctant candidate, cringing when he hears the word “politician.” Still, when asked why he decided to run, he lit up with a broad smile and sparkling eyes.
“Because Gabby asked me to,” he said. “And I really haven’t ever said no to Gabby.”
After Mr. Barber announced his bid and received the endorsement of Ms. Giffords, who continues to recover in Houston, several other Democrats who had planned to run in June pulled out, saying that they would concentrate on the fall election. Mr. Barber says that he has not made up his mind about whether he will run in November but has not ruled it out.
She will be missed until she does comes back.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced her plans to step down from Congress Jan. 22, 2011.
Transcript of video:
“Arizona is my home, always will be. A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together. I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice. Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona I will step down this week. I’m getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country. Thank you very much.”
Gabrielle Giffords will be on hand Sunday in Tucson, Ariz., to honor the victims of last year’s mass shooting. But the day is also a reminder that Gabrielle Giffords will soon have to decide if she is able, and willing, to run for reelection.
Her visit is about paying tribute to the 18 other shooting victims - six of whom died - and helping to rebuild a Tucson community shaken to its core. She and her husband, Mark Kelly, will attend a candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona Sunday evening to honor the victims. Mr. Kelly is expected to speak.
Though the event has no political overtones, the growing question on the minds of many here is whether Congresswoman Giffords is ready, and willing, to return to Washington.
Giffords, who was shot in the head at a meet-and-greet outside a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson, has been undergoing therapy in Houston. In November, her television appearance with ABC’s Diane Sawyer showed that Giffords had made great strides in her recovery but still struggled to speak and walk.
Until then, her constituents had been privy to virtually no information on her progress and speculation about her future has intensified with time. A three-term member of Congress, Giffords faces a May deadline to decide whether to run for reelection.
The memorial event “does have implications for whether or not she’s going to run again,” said Bruce Merrill, a political analyst and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. “This is part of the process, as much as she’s beloved and respected there, people still need to be represented and they’re going to be looking in terms of how she appears in this setting.”
With the deadline to file candidacy papers approaching, potential candidates are starting to get nervous, says Bruce Ash, a Republican National Committee member from Arizona. “This is about the time that, if it were an open seat, people would start coming forward.”