Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has won election to a third term in the U.S. House, defeating Republican challenger Jesse Kelly in a race not finalized until Friday.

In unofficial totals from the Nov. 2 election, Giffords beat Kelly by 1.48 percentage points, a margin of 4,167 votes as of Monday night.

“I’m grateful for the electorate, and the people in the district, for deciding to return me to Washington,” Giffords said Monday. “The fact the people of Southern Arizona still want me to fight for them, to be their voice in the U.S. Congress, is a true honor.”

Why so close?

While “I don’t think it’s monolithic in why people voted the way they did last Tuesday,” Giffords senses “a very strong push back against the 9.5 percent unemployment rate in Arizona, and the frustration of not having a path forward with a plan to restore the economy, and get people back to work.”

Giffords does not believe this was a mandate election for conservative Republicans.

“I really don’t,” she said. “There is real frustration on behalf of independent voters, and Southern Arizonans” who are “not comfortable with the rapid change in policies.

“Some of that is impatience as well,” she said. “Remember, two years ago, we were shedding more than 700,000 jobs per month.”

She’s one of 13 Democrats re-elected in districts where Sen. John McCain beat President Obama two years ago. She’s one of 14 Democrats who won in Republican-leaning districts, and she’s “the only woman that’s left” in that group.

“Without a strong coalition of Republicans, Democrats, independents, there’s no way we would have been elected on Tuesday,” she said.

Moving forward, “I’m concerned the Republicans have eliminated the majority of their centrist members” in Washington, Giffords said. “Over half my Blue Dog Coalition” has been defeated. “I’m concerned there will be a lot of gridlock and polarity with liberals and conservatives dominating the agenda, and very few of us who are real centrists. That’s where I believe the majority of Americans are.”

The last two years are not opportunity lost for Democrats, she believes.

“Americans historically prefer to have checks and balances,” Giffords said. “Almost every mid-term election is a major upset, if you have all branches controlled by one political party. Americans want to have a counter balance.

“What I hear clearly from everyone is a tremendous amount of frustration. Now, there is a big check and balance.”

Despite loss, Kelly sees a win for U.S.

Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Jesse Kelly issued statements after Giffords’ tight win in the Congressional District 8 race.

“While we fell short here in District 8, Tuesday was a resounding victory for America,” Kelly said in a prepared statement. “The citizens of this nation overwhelming chose limited government, fiscal sanity, and free market solutions. I am proud that we ran an honest and straightforward campaign. We are blessed by God to live in a nation where we get the government we deserve and the government that we chose. The voters of Southern Arizona have spoken and I respect their decision.”

Giffords wanted to “acknowledge my opponent’s hard-fought campaign. To Mr. Kelly’s supporters, I respect your opinions, admire your passion and share your love of our great state and country.”

“I would have liked to have seen a campaign where there was a real focus on the issues, not on misinformation. There was a lot of misinformation,” Giffords said, some of it distributed illegally, in her view.

She was the target of “about a dozen independent expenditure outside groups,” and she can name them. Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl got after her, too.

“I certainly hope they don’t mean the things they said,” Giffords said.

When she won in 2006, “the very first phone call I received” was a congratulatory call from McCain. He called again in 2008.

“He hasn’t called yet this election cycle,” Giffords said. “I’ll be reaching out when I get back to Washington. We’ve done quite a bit of good work together, immigration, homeland security, FEMA in Marana.

“Elections bring out the best and worst in people. It’s over. We have to pull together as a delegation to do what’s right for the people that elected us.”

Giffords “ran a campaign I can be proud of,” she said. “When Jesse Kelly repeatedly called to privatize and eliminate Social Security, we let the public know in his words. When he wanted to voucherize Medicare, and criticized seniors that they should get off the public dole because they were on Medicare, we let the public know about that.”

“That is very legitimate,” Giffords said. “It’s as basic as it gets, letting the public know in his own words what he wants to do.”

U.S. House, District 8

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D 48.71 percent 136,897 votes

Jesse Kelly, R 47.32 percent 132,730 votes

Steven Stoltz, L 3.92 percent 11,015 votes

Secretary of State’s office, Monday night

U.S. House, District 7

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D 49.65 percent 75,223 votes

Ruth McClung, R 44.66 percent 67,658 votes

George Keane 2.71 percent 4,113 votes

Harley Meyer 2.84 percent 4,297 votes

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