For four years, I worked day-in, day-out as a member of Congress serving Southern Arizona. One truly interesting thing about doing that job is that you get to see several hundred other people doing it at the same time as you. You see who works hard and who slacks. You see who’s in it to get on the news and who’s in it to make a difference in people’s lives. I learned a lot by watching. And the members of Congress I really came to respect were the ones who dedicated themselves to helping people back home.
These are the women and men who are on the phone all the time, usually with a small-town mayor or a hospital administrator, finding out how they can help. Or they’re calling to console the parents of a veteran who lost his life overseas. Or they’re talking to someone who works at a federal agency explaining that some policy isn’t working correctly and why and how it needs to change. Or they’re getting to know a member of Congress from a different state so they can make a plan to pass a law that will help folks back home. They’re people who are fundamentally in office so that they can help others.
Ann Kirkpatrick is one of those people.
When she represented 12 different Indian tribal nations, she worked to make sure that the Affordable Care Act included the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. This made a big difference in the lives of people living on tribal lands, who had watched Congress fail to reauthorize the IHCIA for a whole decade.
I remember the day I voted for the Affordable Care Act, and I was not surprised to see Ann Kirkpatrick’s name light up on the board as a yes vote, too. At that point, some of our fellow Democrats were voting no, voting against a law that the American people needed desperately but had become unpopular as people struggled in a bad economy. Ann had the guts to do the right thing, even though she knew it would be used against her in the upcoming election.
And even though she lost her next election over that vote, when Ann got back to Congress in 2013, she did not back down one inch. Every single time Republican leaders held a show vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, there was Ann, standing up for the health care that the families she represented relied on, voting against another repeal bill. That next year, the Koch Brothers and the dark-money groups spent more than $5 million in negative TV ads against Ann.
You think she backed down to that onslaught?
Nope. Not Ann. She won re-election and quietly went back to work and protected health care. It’s the same with her support for all-day kindergarten, for the Dream Act, for comprehensive immigration reform, for passing tough laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Ann’s support for doing the right thing is as strong and solid as the White Mountains where she was born.
That’s why I am grateful that Ann is running for Congress in our community. She knows Tucson, having graduated from the University of Arizona, worked as deputy Pima County attorney and served Pima County in Congress. I know she will represent me, my family and my community with courage and grace.
Ann Kirkpatrick has got my vote.
Gabrielle Giffords represented Southeastern Arizona’s 8th District.
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