WASHINGTON -- C.J. Karamargin, who served as communications director for then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) at the time she was shot in 2011, is switching political teams and joining the staff of newly elected Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), according to two sources in Giffords' inner circle.
Karamargin has accepted a job as McSally's district director, the sources say, despite the fact that Giffords' gun violence prevention group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, campaigned hard against McSally in hopes of helping re-elect Giffords' successor, former Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). McSally eked out a victory, but only after a nail-biting vote recount.
Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for McSally, did not confirm the new hire.
"We have not finished finalizing a lot of our hires," he said. "As soon as we get those squared away, we'll announce the staff."
ARS and Karamargin did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Karamargin, who worked for Giffords from 2007 to 2011, has been working in media relations for Pima Community College in Tucson.
A close friend of Giffords, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely, said McSally likely hired Karamargin because she is trying to come across as a trailblazing moderate, as Giffords was when she served in Congress. McSally took very few positions on controversial issues during her 2014 campaign and was criticized for avoiding policy specifics. She also ran an ad during her failed congressional race in 2012 that appeared to compare her to Giffords.
"There was so much frustration at [McSally] trying to link herself to Gabby during the campaign," the source said. "It was really felt in a negative way."
McSally has taken a number of conservative positions that place her far to the right of Giffords. She said in 2012 that she opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage and supports the effort to repeal Obamacare. She said last year that she opposes expanding background checks on gun purchases.
With a prominent member of Giffords' former team on her side, McSally seems to be portraying herself as a moderate. "I am always going to be looking for the things that unite us, not the things that divide us," she said upon being sworn into Congress Tuesday.