If there was any message to take from this year's EMILY's List dinner, it was that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) political career is not over.
Female Democratic candidates who back abortion rights, and those who support their campaigns, paid tribute to Giffords at the group's annual dinner. Amid tears and a sisterly tone, speakers repeatedly alluded to Giffords' political future.
Giffords did not speak at the ceremony, but she climbed the stairs to the stage with the aid of her close friend, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.). The former Member looked strong, her hair had grown out and appeared to be highlighted, and at one point she gave Wasserman Schultz a high five.
In January 2011, Giffords was among 19 people shot at a Tucson, Ariz., Safeway during a meeting she was having with constituents. Six people died, and although Giffords survived a bullet wound to the head, she resigned earlier this year to focus on her recovery.
It was Wasserman Schultz who was the most explicit about her future.
"We all know, when we talk about future careers in the United States Senate, Gabby will be back," the party chairwoman said.
"Her future’s bright," Giffords' mother, Gloria Giffords, added to the chorus in her speech. "Her dreams for a better America are not yet fulfilled. She'll be back, fighting alongside you."
EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock addressed the state of the Arizona 8th district special election to finish out Giffords' term.
"In 2010, Gabby got a tough re-election fight. And I was damned sure we weren’t going to lose that House seat," she said. "Now Gabby, she was so prepared. She put together a great team. You worked so hard Gabby, and you never blinked.
"And you endured some of the ugliest talk any of us have ever heard in politics," she added. "But you didn’t yell back. You didn’t call names. You met ugliness with civility."
Schriock never mentioned him by name, but that same opponent from the 2010 race, veteran Jesse Kelly, is his party's nominee for the race to finish out her term.
The audience stood to applaud and howled with cheers when Schriock mentioned Giffords' hand-picked Democratic nominee in the race, former staffer Ron Barber.
"And Gabby, I tried to find a way to endorse Ron," Schriock said to laughter because the group only backs women. "We can’t do it. He just doesn’t fit the criteria of EMILY's List."