As fascinating as it is, I doubt much will come of this . . .
With doctors preparing Giffords for the rehabilitation stage of her recovery, the discovery Monday of a little-known statutory provision in Arizona law raised the prospect of a legal complication that, if left unamended, would endanger her hold on her seat.
A statute buried in state law says that if a public officeholder ceases to “discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months,” the office shall be deemed vacant and that at such time, a special election could be called to fill the opening.
But in Washington, lawyers quickly concluded that the statute does not apply to members of Congress. The U.S. Constitution provides the qualifications for service in Congress and makes the House the sole judge of those qualifications.
Who wants to be the Arizonan leading the charge to get Gabrielle Giffords removed from office? What Arizona public official is willing to call for, much less run in, a special election to replace Giffords? (This, of course, presumes she does not retire or leave the position voluntarily to focus on her recovery.) Beyond that, there’s precedent for members of Congress missing a lot of work because of health issues with no legal or political consequence; South Dakota senator Tim Johnson spent roughly nine months away from the Senate recovering from a brain hemorrhage. (He was able to do some work within a few months.)
Thinking beyond any potential special election, it’s easy to picture top-tier Republican challengers taking a pass on running against Giffords this cycle. She hung on in a tough cycle, winning by 1 percent in 2010; a campaign against her in 2012 will have to overcome vast amounts of public sympathy.