Marana Mayor Ed Honea has broken Republican ranks to endorse Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for re-election in a competitive — and nationally important — 8th Congressional District race.

In his endorsement, Honea touted Giffords’ attention to the town during her first term in office, especially her work in getting the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider its proposed flood plain maps for the town as well as the millions of federal dollars she steered toward town projects.

“I was really pleased with her advocacy with the town,” Honea said. “She has just been a savior of Marana.”

Honea went so far as to appear in a television ad for the congresswoman, which began airing last Thursday.

The proposed FEMA flood maps, which put large portions of the town into historic flood plains, would’ve caused many Marana residents to pay for costly federal flood insurance, Honea has said. Forcing FEMA to reconsider its maps will save residents about $9 million, according to Honea.

“Through her hard work and intervention we would save literally millions of dollars for the taxpayers in our community,” Honea said in the TV spot.

Republican challenger Tim Bee, the state Senate president, said U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl deserves just as much credit as Giffords does for remedying the flood plain flap.

During a recent debate, Bee extolled the need for reforms to the federal earmark process, which steers hundreds of billions to congressional districts every year.

“It needs to be done through the budget process,” Bee said.

Marana has received its share of federal largesse in recent years thanks to Giffords.

For fiscal 2009, the freshman congresswoman has requested a total of $5.2 million in federal appropriations for various town projects, including a $4.5 million air-traffic control tower and $350,000 for medical equipment at the Marana Health Center.

“What makes me pleased about it is Marana gets some exposure,” Honea said of his decision to appear in Giffords’ TV ad.

The Marana projects are part of the $120 million requested by Giffords for fiscal 2009.

Last year, the congresswoman asked for $326 million in appropriations, though only $19.6 million of that sum was approved.

The 8th Congressional District covers Marana, Oro Valley, much of Tucson and all of Cochise County. The race has become one of the most closely watched congressional contests this election cycle.

A complete list of Giffords’ appropriations requests can be found online at http://giffords.house.gov/legislation/appropriations.

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