Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appears to be in no hurry to declare whether she will run for reelection in 2012, but at least one Arizona Republican has no plans to wait around to find out.
State Sen. Frank Antenori made it clear this week that he is interested in running for Giffords’s seat next year, a move he says is designed to force the Democratic congresswoman into making a decision and to allow him to be prepared to challenge for the seat if she opts to retire.
“I probably won’t run if she runs, but I’ve got a feeling she’s not running,” Antenori told the Arizona Republic. “I want to get them to make a decision here. I cannot allow the Democratic Party to create the perception that she is running as an effort to keep Republicans out of the race and inhibit us from raising money.”
Giffords’s office and her Washington allies have said that it is too early to say whether she will run for reelection. But her surprise appearance on the House floor earlier this summer fueled speculation that she plans to seek another term in Congress.
State party leaders said that despite Antenori’s intentions, Giffords won’t be pressured to make a formal decision until she and her family are ready to. “Her recovery isn’t based on [Antenori’s] political ambitions,” Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson told the Associated Press.
Antenori said he plans to make a formal decision about whether he is running early next year after the state finishes its redistricting. He thinks that Giffords ought to make a decision in the the first two months of 2012.
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, however, Antenori acknowledged the political reality that it would be nearly impossible to unseat Giffords if she decides she has recovered enough from the January shooting that nearly killed her to run in 2012.
“Let’s be blunt. The sympathy factor for the tragedy she suffered and the strength she’s demonstrated has been imprinted on the electorate,” Antenori said. “You’d have to be an idiot to think otherwise.”