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Report: Arizona Law Puts Giffords’ Seat at Risk

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was notified Monday of an obscure state statute that could jeopardize Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ seat as the Arizona Democrat recuperates from a gunshot wound, the Washington Post reported.

“With Rep. Giffords’s tremendous progress, an answer to many prayers, we’ve deemed it to be far too early and entirely inappropriate to speculate, analyze, consider” the implications of the statute, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, told the Washington Post in an e-mail. 

The statute holds that a public office shall be deemed vacant if the officeholder does not “discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months.” Under state law, the governor would call for a special primary election and a special general election to fill a vacant office, unless that vacancy occurs within six months of the next general election. The special primary would be called within 72 hours after the office is officially declared vacant.

The statute does not define the duties of office, nor does it lay out Giffords’ legal options.  

Giffords, 40, was re-elected in November. She was shot in the head Jan. 8 in an attack in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 12 others, and she is in serious condition at University Medical Center in Tucson.

Doctors have cautioned that her recovery would be long. Neurosurgeons “don’t even close the book on [recovery] for several years,” Dr. Michael Lemole, UMC’s chief neurosurgeon, said the day after the shooting. 

Senior aides to Giffords did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Post. 

The state Legislature could be called into a special session to try to amend the statute.

“We should let people recover before anybody makes a judgement about whether she’s fit to serve,” state Sen. Frank Antenori, a Republican who represents part of the Tucson area, told the Post. “I don’t hear anybody making those discussions.”

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