Ney Nixes Re-election Bid
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Bob Ney, the Republican Congressman from Ohio linked to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, says he will not run for reelection this fall. Ney has been in the House since 1994, usually winning his seat by large margins. But he's been targeted by Democrats seeking to capitalize on his involvement with Abramoff.
Bill Cohen of Ohio Public Radio reports.
BILL COHEN reporting:
Bob Ney had never been indicted and he had proclaimed his innocence. But he had been closely linked to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had pleaded guilty to, among other charges, conspiracy to bribe public officials, and that's why even though Ney had won past reelection contests handily, this year's had been different.
First he had to beat back a Republican primary challenge. Then he had fallen behind in the polls against Democratic newcomer Zach Space. And in the last couple months, Ney had lagged in fund-raising. None of those factors though are mentioned in Ney's brief written announcement that he's now decided to not run for reelection. “Ultimately this decision came down to my family. I can no longer put them through this ordeal.”
Newark is one of the small cities that dot Ney's sprawling district, characterized by farms and coalmines. Lunching inside the Natoma restaurant, Janice Callend(ph) isn't sympathetic to Ney.
Ms. JANICE CALLEND (Resident of Newark, Ohio): If he wasn't guilty, then he should have stayed and fought.
COHEN: But outside the restaurant on the town square, sheet metal worker Wilbur Staggers is sad about Ney quitting the race.
Mr. WILBUR STAGGERS (Resident of Newark, Ohio): I think he's kind of a victim of the media and the Democrats.
COHEN: Retiree Cathy Sheck(ph) says she has voted for Ney in the past and will no doubt vote for whichever Republican runs in his place.
Ms. CATHY SHECK (Resident of Newark, Ohio): He was good and he did good when he was in office, but I think we can find somebody else that's just as good.
COHEN: Republican State Senator Joy Paget says she fits that description. She says Ney has asked her to take his place on the ballot. The chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Bob Bennett, agrees Paget would be a strong replacement now that Ney has announced he's not running.
Mr. BOB BENNETT (Ohio Republican Party): Well, I think that it certainly takes away some of the issues that were swirling around Congressman Ney. Those issues will not be present with the new candidate.
COHEN: But if Democrats have their way, those epic issues will indeed be present. The chair of the state Democratic Party, Chris Redfern, sarcastically calls Paget the perfect candidate for the Republicans.
Mr. CHRIS REDFERN (State Democratic Party): Joy Paget is the right person for the job because she spent the better part of the last two years supporting Bob Ney, resisting the accusations that have been leveled against him, carrying water for him every step of the way. Now comes her reward. She gets to run for a Congressional seat that she will lose.
COHEN: Democrats figure they can still hammer Republicans with a corruption issue, but Ney's departure means their number one poster boy for the so called Republican culture of corruption is gone. Back in the town square restaurant in Newark, roofing consultant Darryl Lowry is glad Ney won't be returning to Washington. But for Lowry, that's only the beginning.
Mr. DARRYL LOWRY (Resident of Newark, Ohio): I think we need to replace all our politicians every six years. Time for a lot of them to go. Six years, adios.
COHEN: If this anti-incumbent sediment is wide spread in November, it could benefit the Democrats. They need to pick up only 15 seats to recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
For NPR News, I'm Bill Cohen in Columbus.