Rep. Bob Ney announced yesterday that he will not seek a seventh term in November, a decision Republicans say was made to help ensure his Ohio seat stays in the party's hands.
Mr. Ney, who has been dogged by charges of corruption in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, said in a statement that he had done nothing wrong but was withdrawing for his family's sake.
"I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal," he said. He was not otherwise available for comment.
Mr. Ney is the second Republican in Congress this year with close ties to Abramoff to announce he will not seek re-election. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay gave up his seat from Texas in June.
"Mr. Ney's departure from Congress is welcome news in our fight to end the Republican culture of corruption," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
Mr. Ney and Republican Party officials reportedly have chosen state Sen. Joy Padgett as a replacement.
"Any Republican we put on the ballot will be able to represent the district better than a Democrat," said Ohio Republican Party spokesman John McClelland.
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner urged his fellow Ohio Republican to quit his race, said party officials who spoke with the Associated Press.
"This just shows you the arrogance of Boehner and Padgett," said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg. "They think they can just replace Ney and keep the seat. This doesn't change the fact that corruption is an issue in Ohio."
Ohio Secretary of State spokesman James Lee told The Washington Times that Mr. Ney has not submitted the required paperwork making his withdrawal official, and Ohio Democratic officials say they will fight to keep Mr. Ney on the ballot.
"Let's just say there are a lot of our lawyers looking at it," said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg.
Mr. Rothenberg said Mrs. Padgett is legally barred from running in the general election because of Ohio's "sore loser" statute, which prevents a candidate who has lost a primary election from appearing on a general election ballot the same year. Mrs. Padgett ran for lieutenant governor in Ohio's Republican primary in May.
"I'm not sure how they could ignore that," Mr. Rothenberg said.
Mr. Ney must file paperwork with the Tuscarawas County Board of Elections to make his withdrawal official. If the paperwork is filed within 80 days of the general election, state Republicans must hold a special primary to fill his spot on the ballot.
Mr. Lee said that if the paperwork is filed between 80 and 76 days of the general election, county officials in Mr. Ney's district could appoint his replacement directly. If Mr. Ney does not file the paperwork within 76 days of the election, he may be forced to remain on the ballot.
The Nov. 7 election is more than 90 days away.
If Mrs. Padgett's name is on the ballot, Democrats say, they will highlight the close ties between her and Mr. Ney.
"Bob Ney represented the culture of corruption in Washington and Joy Padgett represents the culture of corruption in Columbus," Joe Shafer, campaign manager for Democratic challenger Zack Space, said in a statement.
"I'm not sure I'd want Bob Ney's endorsement," Mr. Rothenberg said.
Mr. Space outraised the Ney campaign during the past quarter, the first time since he entered the race.