Rep. Eric Massa To Resign Effective Monday
by Charles Lemos, Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 08:26:31 PM EST
After announcing his decision to retire at the end of his first term in Congress for reasons of health, progressive Democratic Congressman Eric Massa, who represents the New York 29th Congressional District, has come under a widening ethics cloud over allegations that he sexually harassed a male staffer. Today, he announced his resignation on his Congressional website (his letter of resignation is beneath the fold). The resignation is effective Monday at 5 PM and further complicates the prospects of passing a comprehensive healthcare reform package through the House.
The ethics investigation centers on a complaint by a male staffer of as yet unspecified sexual harassment charges. Congressman Massa, a 24-year veteran of the US Navy, admits to sometimes using "salty language."
Congressman Massa has served on the Agriculture, Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. He was a staunch supporter of a single-payer health care system and was one of 39 House Democrats to vote against health care legislation because it didn't go far enough in extending coverage and in controlling costs.
The National Journal has the scoop on what happens next and the political environment in the GOP-leaning NY-29 Congressional District:
Massa's resignation doesn't necessarily mean there will be a special, as state law doesn't require that Gov. David Paterson (D) call one. If he does choose to declare a special, he'll have to issue a proclamation setting the date of the election. The election will then be held between 30-40 days from the date of that proclamation.
If there is a special election, it would be the fifth such contest between now and Nov. There will be a 4/13 contest to replace Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), where Dems are strongly favored, and two May contested specials in HI and PA. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) plans to resign at the end of Mar., and a date has not yet been picked for an election to fill that heavily GOP seat.
Before the news of Massa's resignation hit today, candidates were already emerging for the open seat contest. The GOPer on the top of the party's wish list -- Monroe Co. Exec. Maggie Brooks (R) -- appears ready to make a decision within the week. If she doesn't run, there are a bevy of legislators ready to jump into the contest.
But Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R) has been in the race for months, and appears loathe to exit. (For more, check out our earlier coverage of the emerging GOP field)
On the Dem side, Massa's pick appears to be Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan (D), but he has yet to decide on a bid. Assemb. David Koon (D), though, has told county chairs he'll run. And several other legislators are also taking a look at the contest.
A special would benefit GOPers, should Brooks -- with her considerable name ID in the CD's largest county -- get into the race. She should have the ability to raise a quick amount of money for the race as well. Reed has been a solid candidate, but his fundraising isn't particularly strong, and county chairs -- who would pick a nominee for a special election -- would surely favor Brooks over Reed.
Congressman Massa is one 16 Democratic members of the House who will not return for the 112th Congress.
Congressman Massa's letter of resignation as posted on his Congressional website.
Two days ago as I sat reading my new annual CAT scan, having been told that the anomalies in the films may or may not be scar tissue, I decided to finally take the advice that my doctors have repeatedly given me, and that is to take care of my family and myself before my profession. After I decided not to run again I was told, for the first time, that a member of my staff believed I had made statements that made him feel “uncomfortable.” I was told that a report had been filed with the Congressional Ethics Committee. At no point prior to this had any member of the Ethics Committee communicated with me directly - if fact I first read it on the internet.
I own this reality. There is no doubt in my mind that I did in fact, use language in the privacy of my own home and in my inner office that, after 24 years in the Navy, might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable. In fact, there is no doubt that this Ethics issue is my fault and mine alone. But in the incredibly toxic atmosphere that is Washington D.C., with the destruction of our elected leaders having become a blood sport, especially in talk radio and on the internet, there is also no doubt that an Ethics investigation would tear my family and my staff apart. Some would say that this is what happens when you stand apart from political parties, which I have done. Others will say that this is what happens to a non politician when they go to Washington DC. I want to make something perfectly clear. My difficulties are of my own making. Period. I am also aware that blogs and radio will have a field day with this in today's destructive and unforgiving political environment. In that investigators would be free to ask anything about me going back to my birth, I simply cannot rise to that level of perfection. God knows that I am a deeply flawed and imperfect person.
During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself. I fell short and I believe now, as I have always believed, that it is not enough to simply talk the talk, but rather I must take action to hold myself accountable.
Therefore, effective at 5 PM on Monday the 8th of March I will resign my position as the Federal Representative of New York's 29th Congressional District in the 111th Congress. I do so with a profound sense of failure and a deep apology to all those whom, for the past year, I tried to represent as our Nation struggles with problems far greater than anyone can possibly imagine. I hope that my family, constituents, and fellow Members of Congress can accept this apology as being both genuine and heartfelt and I wish for them and all Americans only the best. I will take all actions possible to ensure that my personal health is secured in that I know that mine is a far more fragile lifeline than most. For the millions of fellow cancer survivors with whom I share this experience, they, more than anyone else, will understand the honesty and openness in this statement.
I ask that members of the press respect the privacy of my family, my staff, and me at this time.
-Congressman Eric Massa