Giffords not likely to lose seat

Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:09 PM
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TUCSON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- It's unlikely a state law would be used to strip U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of her seat as she heals from a near-fatal gunshot wound, Arizona observers say.

The law states if a public officeholder doesn't "discharge the duties of office" for three straight months, the office becomes vacant until a special election is held to fill it. It doesn't say exactly what it would take for an officeholder to qualify as having discharged his or her duties.

Giffords is in serious condition after having been shot through the brain Jan. 8 by a gunman who killed six people and wounded 12 others besides the 40-year-old Democrat.

"We should let people recover before anybody makes a judgment about whether she's fit to serve," Republican state Sen. Frank Antenori told The Washington Post. "I don't hear anybody making those discussions."

While the newspaper reported Monday staff for Gov. Jan Brewer and Giffords had no immediate response to queries about the law, Jay Heiler, an informal adviser to Brewer, said it was "unimaginable" the governor would call for a special election to replace Giffords. Most likely, Heiler said, state lawmakers would be called into special session to change the law to give her more time to heal.

"This is a statutory provision that was written without vision of a case such as this and could lead to injustice," said Heiler, a former assistant attorney general and chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Fife Symington.

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