Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman, will resign later this week to focus on her rehabilitation, the Tucson Democrat said Sunday.
Giffords’ announcement came just over a year after she was shot in the head in a Tucson supermarket parking lot, where she had been meeting with constituents. Jared Lee Loughner, a mentally ill 23-year-old, has been charged in the shooting, which killed six people and injured 14.
“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what’s best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” Giffords said in a video statement posted on her congressional website.
In the two-minute video, she also thanks Americans for their well wishes, says she’s in good spirits as she continues to recover and that she “will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.”
Giffords, a former state legislator who was elected to Congress in 2006, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian Scientist mother. A 2001 trip to Israel strengthened her connection to her Jewish roots, she has said. Giffords is a member of Tucson’s Congregation Chaverim, and studied Torah alongside Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, the synagogue’s spiritual leader. In 2007, Aaron officiated at Giffords “traditional Jewish wedding” to astronaut Mark Kelly.
The congresswoman is undergoing intensive rehabilitation in Houston, where she has been living with Kelly.
Under Arizona law, Gov. Jan Brewer has 72 hours from the time of Giffords resignation to set a date for a special election. The winner will serve out the remainder of Giffords’ term, which ends in January 2013.
Giffords is expected this week in Washington, where she is to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Watch Giffords’ announcement below: