From Monday to Saturday is a remarkably quick fall from power to powerlessness.
Today, just five days after the story broke of his arrest and guilty plea on a disorderly conduct charge in Minnesota, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned his Senate seat.
At his resignation press conference, Craig said, “The people of Idaho deserve a Senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to critical state and national issues. Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate effective September 30.” Craig made no mention of the arrest or the guilty plea, but said his plans seek legal counsel could take away from his duties as Senator.
“I am deeply sorry,” he said, “I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearing my name is important to me and my family is very important also.”
Craig’s resignation comes at the end of not only a week of speculation about his sexuality, but a very long 25 years. From the congressional page scandal in 1982, when Craig declared his innocence even though nobody had yet publicly accused him, to this week, the rumors of Craig’s homosexuality and anonymous sex episodes persisted, ending with a humiliating arrest at the hands of a plainclothes police officer who was investigating sexual solicitation in a men’s bathroom in the Minneapolis airport.
A sunny day in the City of Boise was the backdrop for Craig’s resignation speech at the Boise Train Depot, with the Senator surrounded by his wife Suzanne and children, Gov. Butch Otter, State School Superintendent Tom Luna, among others. About 250 people were in attendance, about half of them citizens and half of them local and national media.
Some citizens raised signs in protest. One of the protesters, Krystal White, said, “This is not about being gay. Let the Larry Craig supporters send their 12-year-old boy into that bathroom stall and then let them say they support him.”
The protesters were balanced by the many Craig supporters.
Will Hart, Craig’s regional director in Boise, said after Craig’s speech, “We’re loyal to Senator Craig and his constituents. We’ve never had any reason to believe anything bad about our boss. He has apologized to us for his mistake and we’ve forgiven him for that. We look forward to his legal council taking over this issue.”
Born on the family ranch near Midvale, Idaho, Craig’s attraction to leadership positions came at an early age, when he was state chair of the Future Farmers of America. He went on to become student body president at the University of Idaho and was elected to the Idaho House in 1974, where he served three terms before winning the 1980 race for Congress from Idaho’s first district. He was re-elected four times before winning the U.S. Senate election in 1990 and was re-elected to the Senate in 1996 and 2002.
It will now be up to Gov. Butch Otter to appoint someone to take Craig’s seat. The word is Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is the frontrunner for the appointment but Congressman Bill Sali, and Congressman Mike Simpson have also been floated as possibilities. On Tuesday, Aug. 28, the domain name www.rischforsenate.com was purchased and registered.
Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian said Friday that the governor hadn’t made any decisions yet. Whoever takes the seat will be up for an interesting race in 2008, the end of Craig’s term. Democrats, who have been utterly silent during the week, have Larry LaRocco in the front as a candidate for Craig’s seat.
Toward the end of his career, Craig was a powerful senior member of Congress with numerous committee chairmanships, all of which were taken away from him this week as his Republican colleagues distanced themselves from Craig and the unfolding scandal.
“I hope you do not regret the confidence you have placed in me for all these years,” Craig said Saturday.
When news broke Monday, Craig immediately removed himself from Sen. Mitt Romney’s campaign and Romney was immediately unsupportive of Craig, telling CNN on Thursday that Craig’s alleged conduct was “disgraceful” and stopped just short of calling for a resignation. He said, “I think at this stage, the right course is for him to make this decision looking at his own conscience, talking to the people of Idaho, talking to his colleagues in the Senate.”
Other top GOP leaders were reportedly drafting a letter from the party Friday calling for a resignation.
Craig’s denial of both the long-standing rumors and the allegations of the solicitation in the Minneapolis airport have been quick and unrelenting. In a public appearance in Boise on Tuesday, Craig said, “I am not gay and never have been gay.”
Craig said he made the decision to plead guilty in the case, because of ongoing speculation about his sexuality and the pressure of a months-long investigation by the Idaho Statesman into his history and the many stories circulating about his involvement in anonymous same-sex affairs.
“While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away,” he said.
The Statesman had not published any of the fruits of the investigation until after news of the arrest had spread. Then Tuesday, the lengthy piece, with exhaustive coast-to-coast reporting came out, further fueling the nation-wide media blitz about Craig’s arrest and the history that may or may not have lead up to it.
On Tuesday, Craig called the Statesman, investigation a “witch hunt.” The Statesman’s managing editor Bill Manny said, “As our story today demonstrated, we followed leads and asked questions. We worked hard and behaved responsibly, not publishing a story until it was ready. We didn’t print anything until the senator pleaded guilty. Our story outlined what we’ve done and it speaks for itself.”
Click here for the full text of Craig’s resignation speech.