Nov 152011
Authors: Stephen Ceasar and Michael A. Memoli Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — On Friday nights, The Shanty was a place where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords could go to unwind, to chat with friends and fellow Tucsonans over a few brews.

So it was only natural that about 60 friends and supporters gathered at the tavern in Arizona on Monday night to hear her voice again.

“We really just know Gabby as Gabby,” said Owner Bill Nugent. “It’s great that she’s on her way back to us.”

The group gathered to watch 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. Many watched through tears.

“There were things that made you cry and things that made you laugh,” Nugent said. “It was so nice to see them get a sense of her great personality and a great sense of humor.”

The bullet passed near two key sections of Giffords’ brain, one that controls speech and the other the ability to understand language. It is still unclear how much damage was done.

When Giffords spoke in the special, it was only in short phrases.

At one point, when Sawyer asked Giffords if she will run again, the lawmaker struggled to find the words she’s looking for.
“No. Better,” she said at first. Her husband interjected, “She wants to get better.”

So Giffords would run again if she gets better, Sawyer asked. “Yes, yes, yes,” Giffords said.

Arizona is undergoing redistricting and it’s unclear whether new district boundaries would benefit Giffords or a Republican opponent. Frank Antenori, a Republican state senator, said he would seek the seat if the district became more heavily Republican.

The filing deadline, should Giffords choose to seek a fourth term, would be in May.

“If Gabby wants to run for Congress, she can and she will,” said Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a friend of the congresswoman. “That was taped nearly a month ago. There has been amazing progress since then.”

On Tuesday, Giffords’ office released a one-minute recording of Giffords speaking directly to her constituents. The message, like her speech in the ABC special, was halting.

“There is lot to say. I will speak better. I want to get back to work,” she said.

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