North JerseyCongressman Steven Rothman, a fellow Democrat, describes fellow Representative Gabrielle Giffords this way; "kind, brilliant, beautiful, charming, intellectually curious, intellectually honest and a powerful presence."
He should know. Rothman serves on the Space and Aeronautics subcommittee that Giffords, shot Saturday in her home state of Arizona, chairs.
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Saturday afternoon released a statement saying "We are all shocked and saddened by the shooting."
Her husband, Mark Kelly, is an experienced astronaut from Orange, N.J., near Newark and according to NASA, will be the commander of the Endeavor on what is planned as the final mission of America's space shuttle program, now scheduled for next November.
Kelly's twin brother is also an astronaut, and former West Orange Mayor John McKeon told NBC New York he knows the family well. "They used to come over to my house for dinner," McKeon said.
He called sons Mark and Scott who graduated together from Mountain High School in West Orange and then went on to college in New York "wonderful men who are heroes."
Mark and Scott's parents, Richie and Tricia Kelly, both served on the West Orange Police Department. "I rode in a radio car with her in the early '80's," West Orange Police Chief Jimmy Abbott said in an interview over the phone.
"They're loving parents, I'm sure they couldn't be any prouder," he said of the Kelly's. According to Abbott, Richie Kelly retired as a captain on the police force.
Congressman Rothman called his fellow Congresswoman "one of the most amazing people I've met in my life."
Asked by NBC New York why she was in politics, he responded "...for all the right reasons, to make America stronger, safer, better educated and to protect America from America's enemies."
Fellow Congressman Rush Holt(D-NJ) said in a statement "Gabby is one of Congress's most dynamic, thoughtful, and compassionate members and serving wtih her is (a) privilege."
"America must not tolerate violence or inflammatory rhetoric that incites political violence," Senator Lautenberg said in his statement.
Fellow NJ Senator Robert Menendez "this was a vicious and intolerable act that contradicts the values on which our great nation is built."
Rep. Rothman noted that while she won a tough re-election battle last November in the midst of a Republican tidal wave, "Her constituents, while the did not always share her political views, respected the heck out of her when she was always ready to help them and fight for what is right."
One of the alleged shooters, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is currently being held in custody, as well as another suspect, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Saturday evening in a press conference held in Tucson. "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," Dupnik said.
"And unfortuntely," the sheriff continued, "Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
In New York, local politicians also spoke highly of the three-term Congresswoman.
"Rep. Giffords is truly a coalition builder, and at the time of this shooting, she was doing what she was elected to do--working on behalf of her consituents," said Rep. Edolphus Towns, who represents the 10th District in Brooklyn, in a statement.
Sen. Charles Schumer called today's "senseless and savage" shooting an American tragedy.
"Congresswoman Giffords is known throughout Tucson and our nation's capital for her kindness, her considerable intellect, and her zest for life," he said, adding that she was a trailblazer as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY