By Associated Press - Friday, September 8, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Former Rep. Gabby Giffords on Friday endorsed Ann Kirkpatrick in the Democratic primary for southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, a move that gives Kirkpatrick a boost as she faces a crowded primary field.

The move by Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, comes as Kirkpatrick works to gain traction in the district she adopted in order to run for the seat now held by Republican Martha McSally.

Kirkpatrick is also a former member of Congress. She gave up her seat representing northeastern Arizona last year to make an unsuccessful challenge to Republican Sen. John McCain. After the loss, she moved from Flagstaff to Tucson.

Giffords was severely wounded in an assassination attempt in Tucson in 2011 that killed six people and wounded another dozen. She resigned from Congress the next year.

Kelly criticized McSally, calling her a rubber stamp for the Republican Party who can’t properly represent a moderate swing district.

“We need somebody who’s going to serve the people here in southern Arizona the way they deserve,” he said.

He and Kirkpatrick both said the move wasn’t intended to clear out primary opponents. The field includes former state Reps. Bruce Wheeler and Matt Heinz, retired Pentagon official Mary Matiella, businessman Billy Kovacs and consultant William Foster.

“Primaries are good things,” Kelly said, with Giffords jumping in with an emphatic “yes.” ”They give a lot of opportunity to have their views and issues heard, it’s a good thing for the party.”

“So when Gabby and I came out to do this and do it early, the intention is not to scare other people away,” Kelly continued. “We are standing behind Ann, and doing it at this time because it feels right to us, and we really feel she is the candidate to beat Martha McSally.”

Giffords was shot in the head and has difficulty speaking.

Both Giffords and Kirkpatrick voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, won Giffords’ seat in 2014, and famously rallied fellow House Republicans before a vote in May to repeal the law.

The 2nd District includes part of the Tucson area as well as Cochise County in the state’s southeastern corner. The mostly rural 1st District that Kirkpatrick formerly represented includes Flagstaff, the Navajo Nation, most of Pinal County and a small part of metro Tucson.

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