WASHINGTON -- The signals are strong. One year after being shot in the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is on a mission to return to the job she so clearly loved.
Her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, and people near the three-term congresswoman say she is motivated to get back to work in Washington, potentially using her inspirational story as a way to mend political differences in the U.S. capital. She faces a May deadline to get on the November ballot, meaning she has a few months to decide her next step.
The Arizona Democrat's future will depend on a recovery that has progressed in remarkable fashion over the past year as she is now able to walk and talk. Her only television interview occurred with ABC's Diane Sawyer nearly 10 months after the shooting and showed how far she has come, but also how far she has to go. At the time, she did not speak in complete sentences and repeated her words to make her point.
Later, she said, "I'm getting stronger. I'm getting better." Giffords has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head. "There is a lot to say. I will speak better."
Jared Lee Loughner, 23, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the mass shooting Jan. 8, 2011, outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was meeting with her constituents. He is being forcibly medicated at a federal prison facility in Missouri in an effort to make him mentally ready for trial.
Giffords returned to Tucson on Friday from Houston to attend ceremonies to mark today's anniversary of the shooting that killed six and wounded her and 12 others.
Her first stop was her office, where she participated in an emotional ceremony to honor staffer Gabe Zimmerman, who was among those slain.
Events will take place throughout Sunday in Tucson, and Giffords is expected to attend at least one.
Giffords has cast one vote since the shooting. She surprised colleagues in August by returning to Washington to vote for legislation raising the nation's debt ceiling. The debate leading up to the vote had been among the most bitter and partisan of the year. On other votes, she is recorded as not voting.
Giffords has until May 30 to file nominating signatures to have her name placed on the ballot for Arizona's 8th Congressional District, which has nearly equal percentages of Republican and Democratic voters.