Scandal forces senator to quit
Republican leaders pushed him to resign, but Craig says he will still fight to clear his name.
Published September 2, 2007
BOISE, Idaho - In a subdued ending to a week of startling political theater, Sen. Larry Craig announced his resignation Saturday, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about damage from his arrest and guilty plea in a gay sex sting.
"I apologize for what I have caused," Craig said, his wife, Suzanne, and two of their three children at his side. "I am deeply sorry."
Craig, 62, said he would resign effective Sept. 30, ending a career in Congress spanning a quarter-century.
Craig spokesman Sidney Smith said he did not know whether Craig would return to Washington on Tuesday, the start of the post-Labor Day congressional session.
Making no specific mention of the incident that triggered his disgrace in his remarks, Craig spoke for less than 6 minutes and took no questions.
Among those attending was Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who will appoint a successor for the remaining 15 months of Craig's term.
It was a relatively quick end to a drama that began Monday with the stunning disclosure that Craig had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge following his arrest June 11 in a Minneapolis airport men's room.
Craig at first tried to hold on to his position, contending in a public appearance on Tuesday that he had done nothing inappropriate and that his only mistake was pleading guilty Aug. 1 to the misdemeanor charge. But a growing chorus of GOP leaders called for him to step down to spare the party further embarrassment and possible harm in next year's elections.
President Bush called Craig from the White House after the senator's announcement and told him he knew it was a difficult decision to make, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
"Sen. Craig made the right decision for himself, for his family, his constituents and the United States Senate," Stanzel said.
Craig was arrested June 11 in a police undercover vice operation. The arresting officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia, said in his report that the restroom where he encountered Craig is a known location for homosexual activity.
Craig has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s. He has called assertions that he has engaged in gay sex ridiculous.
"I am not gay. I never have been gay," Craig said defiantly after a news conference Tuesday. He said he had kept the incident from aides, friends and family and pleaded guilty "in hopes of making it go away."
On Saturday, Craig said he would pursue legal options to clear his name. He has retained Billy Martin, a Washington lawyer who represented Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, to pursue his legal options. Washington lawyer Stan Brand will represent Craig before a Senate ethics committee, said spokesman Dan Whiting.
"The people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to the critical issues of our state and of our nation," Craig said. "I have little control over what people choose to believe. But clearly my name is important to me, and my family is so very important also."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Craig "made a difficult decision, but the right one."
"It is my hope he will be remembered not for this, but for his three decades of dedicated public service," McConnell said. McConnell had been one of Craig's harshest critics, calling his actions "unforgivable."
Craig represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century, including 17 years in the Senate. He was up for re-election next year.
Craig opposes gay marriage and has a strong record against gay rights. He was a leading voice in the Senate on gun issues and Western lands. Craig chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and was a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, where he was adept at securing federal money for Idaho projects.
A fiscal and social conservative, Craig sometimes broke with his party, notably on immigration, where he pushed changes that many in his party said offered "amnesty" to illegal immigrants.
It will be up to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Craig's term. He says he hasn't made a decision and doesn't have a timetable. Some of the possible replacements for Craig are:
Lt. Gov. Jim Risch: If Craig had chosen not to run for a fourth term in 2008, Risch planned to campaign for his seat. Some expect Risch could be appointed to the post.
Republican state House Speaker Bruce Newcomb: A possible "placeholder appointee" suggested by Democratic Party chairman Richard Stallings.
Former GOP Gov. Phil Batt: A possible "placeholder appointee" suggested by Stallings.
Former Democratic Idaho Gov. and former U.S. Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus: A possible "placeholder appointee" suggested by Stallings.
Former Rep. Larry LaRocco: He has already said he would run for the seat in 2008. He and Risch are old rivals.