The Fix: Rep. Eric Massa to resign from Congress

By Chris Cillizza
Friday, March 5, 2010; 3:48 PM

Updated 4:26 p.m.

New York Rep. Eric Massa will resign his House seat on Monday at 5 pm, his office confirmed to the Fix, a move that comes just days after he announced his plans to retire at the end of the year.

Massa acknowledged in a statement that "I'm guilty" of using inappropriate language in front of staff both in his home and in his office.

"There is no doubt in my mind I have used improper language," he said in the statement, first reported by the Corning (N.Y.) Leader. "It's my fault and I can't blame anyone but myself."

He said he does not know who reported him to House leaders or what was said.

"I can't subject my family and staff to a full investigation," Massa said. "It would tear us apart ... It's not that I can fight or beat these allegations, I'm guilty."

In announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Massa denied a Politico report that the House Ethics committee was investigating him over alleged sexual harassment of a male staffer but it was later revealed the committee was in fact pursuing an inquiry into the New York Democrat.

Massa's 29th district takes in a swath of land in western New York and tilts slightly in Republicans' favor. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) carried the seat with 51 percent in 2008 and George W. Bush won it by 14 points in 2008. (Massa is one of seven retiring House Democrats who represent districts won by McCain in 2008.)

Former Corning Mayor Tom Reed is in the race for Republicans but the field could grow with Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and former Rep. Randy Kuhl reportedly interested in running.

On the Democratic side, Massa has encouraged Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan to consider running but it's not clear whether having the incumbent's blessing will be a help or hindrance in the race. Among the other Democrats mentioned include: Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni, state Assemblywoman Barbara Lifto, state Assemblyman David Koon and state Assemblywoman Susan John.

Massa's resignation could trigger a special election in the Empire State. Under New York state law, Gov. David Paterson (D) must issue a proclamation declaring the seat vacant and then set a special election date no longer than 40 days after the proclamation. But, there is no specific timeline on when Paterson must declare the seat vacant, meaning, presumably, that he could wait several months and have the seat filled in the November election.

If there is a special, it would be the third special election in the Empire State in the last year and the fifth special set to be run between now and the November midterms.

Like previous special election in New York's 20th and 23rd districts,the nominees would be chosen by the county chairmen rather than a primary -- a process that might well have cost Republicans the 23rd as the conservative base revolted against the choice of moderate state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava as the party's standard-bearer.

If a special election is called in the 29th, it would join Florida's 19th, Hawaii's 1st, Pennsylvania's 12th and Georgia's 9th as district hosting specials in the coming months.

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