Arizona state Sen. Frank Antenori (R), who is considering a challenge to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) next fall, questioned whether she is fit to run for office and criticized how her staff has cut off press access to her.
“She is cognizant enough to read and comprehend the debt bill and cast a vote but her handlers don’t feel the media should be given access to her, and I don’t know why that is,” Antenori said in an interview with The Hill Wednesday night.
“It’s creating the legitimate question: Is she able to vigorously represent the district, or was this a one-time deal? Can she do this next term to the same degree of every member of Congress, is she able to continue that level of energy?”
Giffords is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in an attempted assassination last winter. Antenori said that while Giffords should be able to recover in peace for some time, she needed to start giving voters more information on her ability to legislate going forward.
“The voters need to make a decision, and how do they do that without information? They can’t make an assessment of her ability because her staff have denied access to the media. If she’s back, as they claim, why are they still blocking media access to her?” He said. “She is held to a different standard and that’s understandable, but it’s strange they’re going to continue to [shield her from the media].”
Giffords’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Arizona Democrat barely held on to her seat in 2010, and if the redistricting commission decides to shore up a neighboring Hispanic-majority district, it could make her district less Democratic. But the shooting has increased her popularity in the district and raised her profile nationwide.
Antenori launched an exploratory committee to run for Congress earlier this week, and said that if Giffords decides to run for reelection he is less likely to run than if she bows out. But he said that Arizona’s redistricting will have as much of an impact on his decision as Giffords’s health. The state is adding a congressional district, meaning the existing ones need to shrink, and a bipartisan redistricting commission draws the state’s lines.
“If the maps are drawn and I end up in a district that has a four- or five-point Democratic registration advantage I’m not going to run. … But if I’m in a district with Ms. Giffords and it’s an eight- or nine-point Republican registration advantage that will be a hard decision,” he said.
“We’ll run the numbers in the new district and if it’s a very good Republican district and Giffords decides to run, [whether to run] is a question I don’t have an answer to. That’s a tough call, a very tough call, and we’ll have to do the polling and make a decision.”