Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his term, after allegations that the married Republican lawmaker, who opposes abortion rights, asked his mistress to terminate a pregnancy.
Murphy admitted several weeks ago to an affair with forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards — news that came to light during the woman’s divorce proceedings with her husband.
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“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term,” Murphy said in his statement. “I plan to spend my remaining months in office continuing my work as the national leader on mental health care reform, as well as issues affecting working families in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
Murphy added: “In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing. I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”
Murphy met privately with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) before his retirement announcement, as well as with Pennsylvania GOP Reps. Bill Shuster and Charlie Dent.
A number of top Republicans have said privately that Murphy should retire or resign in light of the scandal.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that Murphy suggested Edwards get an abortion during a pregnancy scare, citing leaked text messages between the two.
“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Edwards texted to Murphy in late January, according to the Post-Gazette.
Edwards was responding to a Facebook post by Murphy touting his anti-abortion position in Congress. Murphy is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and voted Tuesday for legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks.
The story also highlighted a toxic work environment in Murphy’s office, citing a June 8 memo in which his chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, warned Murphy about mistreating staff. The document, titled “Office Conduct and Behavior: Harassment/Legal Compliance,” suggests there was a “pattern of sustained inappropriate behavior.”
Mosychuk wrote that the office has experienced 100 percent staff turnover over the past several years and attributed it to the congressman’s behavior. She said he often worked staff through the weekends, only to berate them for failing to meet expectations.
Murphy’s district leans heavily Republican, backing Donald Trump by almost 20 points in 2016 and Mitt Romney by nearly 17 points in 2012. It is likely to remain in Republican hands.
Indeed, national Democrats scoffed at the idea that Democrats might be able to retake the seat — even if Murphy, crippled from scandal, were to run again. One Democratic consultant called it “completely unwinnable” as an open seat.
“[Murphy] is certainly weaker today than he was yesterday, but it’d be a stretch to say this is a Democratic pickup opportunity,” another national Democratic strategist said.
The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, likewise said in a statement late Wednesday evening that he was “confident” the district would stay in GOP hands next year.
“While I am extremely disappointed in the circumstances surrounding Congressman Murphy’s retirement, I remain confident that PA-18 will remain under Republican control next year,” Stivers said. “I look forward to working with the eventual Republican nominee to ensure the district’s conservative values are represented in Congress.”
Still, Democrats on the ground are more hopeful, pointing to competitive down-ballot results in the district.
“It’s a tough district, no doubt about it, but Democrats have been able to keep it close in other races,” said Mike Mikus, a longtime Democratic operative in the state. “I think you’ll see more Democrats taking a look at this and considering jumping in now.”
A handful of Democrats are already in the race, including Pam Iovino, a Navy veteran and former Veterans Affairs official; Mike Crossey, a former member of the Allegheny County Council; and Bob Solomon, a physician.
But former Rep. Jason Altmire — a centrist Democrat who represented Western Pennsylvania and lost his seat, partially due to redistricting, in 2012 — said “it would have to be the right kind of Democrat” to put the seat in play.
“If you had a social conservative Democrat, it’s been proven that a Democrat like that and who fits that mold can win,” Altmire said.
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