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Arizona Representative Daniel Hernandez Jr. running to win the seat once held by Gabby Giffords – KPNX

He kept Giffords conscious and applied pressure to her head wound until paramedics arrived in 2011 after an gunman opened fire, killing 6 and wounding 13 others.

PHOENIX — Jan. 8, 2011, would reshape the way then 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez Jr. would view the world. 

He was just five days into his internship for former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords when a gunman sprayed bullets into a supermarket parking lot killing six people and injuring 13 others. 

“It was traumatic, but what it cemented for me was this desire to keep helping my community and go into public service,” said Hernandez. He kept Giffords conscious and applied pressure to her head wound until paramedics arrived. 

Former President Barack Obama called Hernandez a hero for his quick actions to keep the Congresswoman alive. 

Hernandez has served in the Arizona State House since 2017. He is one of the youngest elected and is also a co-founder of the House LGBTQ caucus, according to his website

He’s lead the fight for equality in Arizona and has worked to expand health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There are many issues that needed to be addressed for years in southern Arizona and the pandemic only serves to highlight them,” said Hernandez. “We know that health care access is going to be a big issue not just right now but going forward.”

Hernandez has worked across the aisle with Republicans on a number of issues impacting Arizona families including preventing the closure of the hospital in Green Valley as a legislator. 

“It was the only hospital for 20 miles around near this retirement community, and I worked with Republicans like Governor Ducey and Democrats like Senator Sinema to get funding to keep the hospital open.” 

How do you bridge the divide we see in American politics and here in Arizona? 

“I’m going to find ways to build relationships and find out where we can agree because too often politicians spend all their time attacking the other side,” said Hernandez. “I worked with the most conservative Republican in the house to pass protections for sexual assault survivors.” 

“I’ve got Republicans to co-sponsor my bills on discrimination against the LGBTQ community, protections for housing employment and public accommodations. I’ve got Republicans to co-sponsor gun violence prevention legislation,” said Hernandez. 

He enters a competitive primary

A trauma surgeon and Navy veteran who operated on Giffords after she was shot, Dr. Randy Friese, is also running for the former Giffords seat. He now serves with Hernandez in the House. 

“I like to call myself a policymaker and I’m excited and driven to create policy and generate ideas,” said Dr. Friese on Square Off. 

He’s made gun control a major focus throughout his time in office. 

“I can bring a very personal point of view and bring people to understand this problem is pressing,” said Dr. Friese. 

State Sen. Kirsten Engel is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

How will former Congresswoman Giffords and her husband Senator Mark Kelly factor into the primaries?

While Hernandez said that he’s spoken with them, he knows he will have to earn their votes and the votes of Arizonans. 

“We have a really tough and I think important Senate election with Senator Kelly, so his focus needs to be on that. My focus needs to be on winning this primary and this general,” said Hernandez.   

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