Sen. Craig Bids Voters Of Idaho Farewell

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) yesterday announced he will resign at the end of the month, concluding with "sadness and deep regret" that his arrest in a men's room sex sting has made it impossible for him to remain in office.

"I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry," Craig, 62, told a gathering of about 300 people in Boise that included his wife, Suzanne, two of his three children, Republican supporters and a few hecklers. "These are serious times of war and of conflict," Craig said, "times that deserve the Senate's and the full nation's attention."

The Republican establishment concluded days ago that Craig must go, and GOP leaders pushed him to resign behind the scenes and through increasingly aggressive public statements. Their tone softened yesterday when Craig complied.

"Senator Larry Craig made a difficult decision but the right one," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. "It is my hope he will be remembered not for this but for his three decades of dedicated public service."

President Bush called Craig after his address. "He told him he knew it was a difficult decision and wished him well," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. But Craig "made the right decision for himself, his family, his constituents and the U.S. Senate," Stanzel added.

Craig said he will wait until Sept. 30 to leave, to provide "as smooth a transition as possible for Idaho." Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter (R) said he has not chosen a replacement to serve out the 16 months remaining in Craig's term. Top candidates include Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).

Craig's 28-year career in Congress started to collapse Monday afternoon, when the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call revealed that he had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge as part of an investigation by Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport police into lewd behavior in a men's restroom.

According to the police report, at about noon on June 11, Craig tried to solicit an undercover officer in an adjoining stall, using signals "used by persons wishing to engage in lewd contact," including tapping his toes, moving his foot over to touch the officer's foot and swiping his left hand under the stall divider.

Eventually, the officer flashed his police identification and escorted Craig away. Later, in the interview room, Craig pulled out a business card that identified him as a U.S. senator, and said, "What do you think about that?"

Craig called a news conference in Boise on Tuesday and said he had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct "in the hope of making it go away." He said he had tried to resolve the case quietly because his hometown newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, had been investigating the senator's sexual orientation -- a "witch hunt," as Craig described it.

"Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay," Craig said Tuesday.

Some Democrats and gay Republicans speculated quietly that the scandal's homosexual dimension was fueling the unusually harsh Republican response, which started Tuesday when GOP leaders called for an ethics investigation. When Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was implicated recently in the D.C. Madam prostitution case, critics noted, GOP leaders more or less kept quiet.

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