- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig yesterday announced he would resign, vowing to clear his name in a homosexual sex scandal but saying he feared becoming a distraction on Capitol Hill.

“I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearing my name is important to me, and my family is so very important also,” the Idaho Republican said in a speech laced with apologies and expressions of regret over the abrupt end of his 16-year Senate career.

“To pursue my legal options as I continue to serve Idaho would be an unwanted and unfair distraction of my job and for my Senate colleagues,” he said. “These are serious times of war and of conflict. Times that deserve the Senate’s and the full nation’s attention.”

It was not clear what legal options Mr. Craig has to reverse his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct related to soliciting homosexual sex from a plainclothes policeman in a Minnesota airport restroom.

Mr. Craig announced later yesterday that he has retained Billy Martin, a Washington lawyer who represented Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, to pursue his legal options.



He has said his actions in the bathroom stall — where police say he put his foot against the foot of the officer in the next stall and signaled with his hand under the stall divider — were misconstrued by the officer.

Mr. Craig, 62, maintains his chief mistake was pleading guilty to an erroneous charge and has repeatedly insisted, “I am not gay.”

His resignation, effective Sept. 30, helps Senate Republicans put the scandal behind them heading into the 2008 elections and helps ensure the party will retain Mr. Craig’s seat from Idaho, a dependably Republican state.

Democrats, who won control of the Senate in November, already have an advantage in 2008, with only 12 of their senators up for re-election compared to 22 Republicans.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is expected to name fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch to finish Mr. Craig’s term, which ends in January 2009.

President Bush called Mr. Craig after the announcement and told him he knew it was a difficult decision to make, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

“Senator Craig made the right decision for himself, for his family, his constituents and the United States Senate,” Mr. Stanzel said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who had called Mr. Craig’s actions “unforgivable,” yesterday said his colleague had “made a difficult decision, but the right one.”

Mr. Craig, who has been under intense pressure to resign from Republican officials in Washington and Idaho, made the announcement in Boise, Idaho, surrounded by his wife, Suzanne, two of their grown children and several Idaho Republican officials.

“To Idahoans I represent, to my staff [and] my Senate colleagues, but most importantly, to my wife and my family, I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry,” Mr. Craig said, as Mr. Otter, Rep. Bill Sali and state party Chairman J. Kirk Sullivan stood behind him.

“For any public official at this moment in time to be standing with Larry Craig is in itself a humbling experience,” he said, adding that it had been a privilege and blessing to “serve the good people of Idaho.”

As he announced that he intended to step down, a burst of applause rang out from the crowd at the press conference.

Craig spokesman Sidney Smith said he didn’t know if the senator would return to Washington.

“We haven’t decided that yet, whether he’s going to return or not,” he said.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports

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