When Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho apologized for not telling family and friends about his arrest in an airport bathroom last June, he said, "I care about friends and staff and Idaho. I love serving this great state."
However, it's not yet clear whether the feeling is mutual. Craig has been saying for months now that he would announce a decision whether to seek a fourth Senate term in September.
Few political observers think that answer is going to be yes. And just in case, Senate Republican leaders declared Tuesday they were calling for a review by the Ethics Committee – a decision announced even before Craig's news conference.
According to court documents, an undercover police officer investigating allegations of sexual conduct in Minneapolis airport restrooms went into a stall and closed the door. According to the complaint, Craig then sent "a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct." The officer then arrested Craig.
Craig, 62, has usually won his races by large margins, including his last campaign, in 2002, in which he triumphed with 65 percent of the vote. But he has been dogged by rumors that he was gay for decades, rumors he has always dismissed as ridiculous.
The Idaho Statesman, the state's largest newspaper, ran a front-page story on Tuesday outlining the allegations (and rumors) made over the years against Craig, a solid conservative who considers himself a strong pro-family values advocate. He had been a key supporter of Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy until resigning this week.
Democrats, who have not won a Senate election in Idaho since 1974, say they are suddenly optimistic about the chances of Larry LaRocco, a former congressman. But in a year where the Republicans already have to defend 22 of the 34 Senate seats at stake, they cannot afford to lose one they were all but guaranteed of keeping just a few days ago. The guessing is that Craig will not run again.
Jim Risch, the Republican lieutenant governor, has long said that he would like to run for the seat if Craig stepped down. Other names, including that of Congressman Mike Simpson, have been mentioned.
Craig, a rancher and a member of the National Rifle Association, lives in Eagle, Idaho, near the capital of Boise. He was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990. He was re-elected in 1996 and 2002.