SIERRA VISTA — U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has revealed that she has a drinking problem and she will be getting treatment for it next week.
In a five-paragraph press release issued Wednesday morning, Kirkpatrick said her dependence on alcohol is the “underlying factor” that prompted her to fall last week, sustaining injuries.
The 69-year-old Democrat’s spokeswoman, Abigail O’Brien, said by phone on Wednesday that Kirkpatrick, who represents Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Cochise County and roughly two-thirds of Tucson, will be staying at a rehab facility for about three weeks in Washington, D.C.
“She will be in regular communications with her staff,” O’Brien said. “We want to make sure that the public knows her position on key issues.”
News of Kirkpatrick’s revelation surprised Cochise County Republican Committee Chairman Robert Montgomery.
“If she is claiming that she has a problem, we would have nothing but sympathy and hope for her recovery,” Montgomery said in a brief telephone interview.
He declined further comment, saying he knew nothing more of Kirkpatrick’s situation.
Montgomery did say there are seven local Republican candidates who will be vying for the Democratic congresswoman’s seat in November.
Kirkpatrick thanked supporters who reached out to her after her fall and said she would be getting physical therapy for her accident. She then went on to say why she fell.
“I do, however, have another challenge I must face, which was the underlying cause of my fall,” she said in the release. “Beginning next week, I will receive treatment that I have struggled to ask for, to treat my alcohol dependence.
“I am finally seeking this help after struggling to do so in the past, and I am ready to admit that I, like countless other Americans, suffer from this disease. Hard work and determination — which have brought me success in life — have not been enough to win this battle. Other than being a wife, mother, and grandmother, the most important job in the world to me is representing my fellow Arizonans. I know I must get better in order to do my best in each of these roles.
“With humility, I share this news with you. Throughout my time in public service, I have always said that you may not agree with me but you will know where I stand. I will continue to honor that commitment to transparency and communication. So while my immediate focus is on my rehabilitation and treatment, I am taking this important step forward with the full expectation and desire to return to work stronger and healthier and to continue serving my beloved Arizona.”
Cochise County Democratic Committee Chairperson Elisabeth Tyndall said she applauds Kirkpatrick for being transparent about such a difficult situation.
“We support her decision to get treatment,” Tyndall said. “Personally it’s a very courageous decision and to share it publicly will hopefully encourage other people who are going through the same thing.”
Tyndall added that Kirkpatrick’s announcement demonstrates transparency and integrity and shows her leadership.
Tyndall’s sentiments were echoed by four of the state’s nine representatives, who took to their Twitter accounts in a show of support for Kirkpatrick.
Describing Kirkpatrick as a “dear friend” on his Twitter page, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Congressional District 1, wrote: “Asking for help is hard, but Ann has always been stronger than most.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva, Congressional District 3 said, “My friend and colleague @RepKirkpatrick is a tireless public servant. I wish her well during this time, applaud her for this courageous step, and look forward to welcoming her back to Washington to keep fighting for the people of Southern Arizona.”
Rep. Paul Gossar, Congressional District 4, posted on his Twitter page, “This takes a lot of courage. Maude & I will be praying for @RepKirkpatrick and her family. I hope all of Arizona & America will join us.”
And finally, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Congressional District 7, said: “Sending well-wishes to my friend and colleague @RepKirkpatrick as she takes this courageous step.”