Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Embattled Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, Says He Won't Seek Re-Election to House Seat

ABC News
Rep. Bob Ney Won't Seek Re-Election
Embattled Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, Says He Won't Seek Re-Election to House Seat
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, under scrutiny in a corruption scandal involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, announced Monday that he was abandoning his re-election campaign.

The Republican had insisted he would not resign, even if indicted over his dealings with Abramoff. In his first primary test in a decade, Ney won 68 percent of the vote May 2 against a little-known opponent.

But in a statement released by his campaign Monday morning, Ney said he had decided to withdraw from his race for a seventh term.

"Ultimately this decision came down to my family. I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal," said Ney, who has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

He plans to serve the remainder of his term, his statement said.

Ney spokeswoman Katie Harbath said the congressman was not available for comment.

Earlier Monday, Ohio state Sen. Joy Padgett told The Associated Press that Ney called her Saturday and asked the fellow Republican to run in his place, saying defending himself has been a strain on his family.

"It's a very sad time," Padgett said of Ney's decision, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on its Web site.

Ney told her "just that there's only so much he can take. He said, 'I have to do this,'" Padgett said.

Padgett said she would run for Ney's seat in the 18th district, a conservative region of farms, mines Appalachian hills and Rust Belt cities in central Ohio.

Ney faced a tough challenge in November from Democrat Zack Space, a law director who had made the Justice Department's investigation into Ney a focus of his campaign. Space's campaign did not return a message Monday morning.

Federal prosecutors have described Ney in court documents as having received gifts, trips and other things of value from Abramoff and his associates. Ney and some of his aides, including his chief of staff, William Heaton, have been subpoenaed, though Ney has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Neil Volz, who was Ney's chief of staff before Heaton, pleaded guilty in Washington in May, admitting he participated in a conspiracy to corrupt Ney, his staff and other members of Congress. The Democratic National Committee said Volz's plea agreement put a "Republican culture of corruption one step closer" to Ney, whom it called "Exhibit A."

Ney spokesman Brian Walsh announced in late June that he was leaving the congressman's office, along with Heaton and another aide.

For the first three months of 2006, Ney's campaign spent more than it raised, a deficit he blamed on mounting legal costs. In the past three months, it was unusually intense campaigning in his expansive rural district that caused the incumbent to spend $52,675 more than donors gave him, he said.

"I'm embattled and attacked; I understand that," Ney told The AP last month after Space raised about $190,000 more than Ney for the quarter.

Ney, 52, told the Tribune-Review that his family had not asked him to drop out, but he wanted to spare them anyway.

"I'm doing this for one reason: my family. My wife and two children have been through enough," he said.

Ney also was frustrated that the scandal was overshadowing his work, the newspaper reported.

Padgett, who said she has known Ney for at least 20 years, was flattered that he and House Majority Leader John Boehner, asked her to run. She said she wished the circumstances were different, "but you have to take life as it's given."