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‘Scandal’ forces GOP lawmaker to step down

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Rep. Christopher Lee, a married New York Republican, resigned from office Wednesday after his flirtations with a young single woman — complete with a bare-chested photo and e-mail excerpts — were made public by Gawker.com, an online gossip site.

"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness," said Mr. Lee, after initially denying the report.

"The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately," he said.

The two-term congressman represented New York's primarily Republican 26th District encompassing Buffalo and served on the House Ways and Means Committee and 25 other working groups and tasks forces. Mr. Lee, 46, at one point was recognized as a "Rookie of the Year" by Politico, which said the lawmaker "looks like a veteran lawmaker when he's interacting with colleagues on the House floor."

But in the want ads of Craigslist, Mr. Lee described himself as a divorced lobbyist under 40, and a "fit, fun, classy guy," according to Gawker. His self portrait — taken with a camera phone in a mirror — reveals a tousled haired, shirtless man, flexing his biceps.

After an exchange of eight e-mailed messages, the unidentified woman — a Maryland resident and government employee — gave up.

"The woman says she cut off contact when she searched for Lee online and concluded he'd lied about his age and occupation. Then she forwarded us the correspondence," said Gawker writer Maureen O'Connor, who broke the story.

"By modern day standards, the conversation was relatively banal: No prostitutes, escorts, or madams were involved. Just good old fashioned lying and an apparent willingness to cheat on one's wife," she added.

Press accounts immediately proclaimed the incident a "scandal"; many journalists marveled at how quick the process was between the gossip and his resignation: about three hours.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the power to order a special election in the aftermath of Mr. Lee's resignation There are no set deadlines for the procedure, though the election must be held within 30 and 40 days after the date is set.

Mr. Lee is not the only Empire State lawmaker to resign in recent memory.

Last year, former New York Rep. Eric J. Massa, a Democrat, resigned from office after a male staffer in his office complained that Mr. Massa had fondled him. The lawmaker decided to resign after a monthlong congressional ethics investigation into the matter.

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