Gabrielle Giffords leaves Congress with a big war chest


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., may be taking her name off her congressional office and the 2012 ballot, but that doesn't mean she can't be a player in a state that will be one of the top political battlegrounds this year.

The congresswoman's announcement that she will be giving up her House seat this week to focus on her recovery from a gunshot wound leaves her sitting on an impressive campaign fund, which she can save to relaunch her political career or bestow on other candidates and campaigns, a traditional way for politicians to stockpile goodwill.

Giffords, a resilient campaigner and prolific fundraiser during her three successful campaigns to win a Republican-leaning district, had nearly $879,000 in her campaign account as of Sept. 30, well above the average for House candidates — $611,000, as calculated by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Among Arizona's members of Congress, the only two with larger warchests are Reps. Jeff Flake, a Republican, who is running for Senate, and Ed Pastor, a Democrat who is thinking of doing so

Arizona is certain to be home to some heated political contests this year. President Obama is targeting the state; the planned retirement of Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., has triggered a heated race for his seat, and redistricting is increasing the competition for House seats.

Giffords' colleagues and supporters have been active in their efforts to keep her options open. Sunlight's Party Time database of political fundraisers shows that she was the beneficiary of at least eight fundraisers in 2011, while she was spending most of her time in intensive therapy for the brain injury she received in a Jan. 8, 2011, assassination attempt.

Before the shooting, Giffords had been considered one of the Democratic party's rising stars. She was widely talked about as a potential Senate candidate, and one of her mentors, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, once predicted that she could be the nation's first female president.

In announcing her decision to resign her House seat, she gave a strong signal of her determination to resume her career. "I will return," Giffords said in a video message posted to her website.

Watch her below.