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In a major blow for House Democrats and a third dose of bad news in recent days for Democrats in New York freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D) announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election.
Massas seat, which Republicans were already targeting, becomes an even bigger pickup opportunity for the GOP. And the circumstances surrounding his departure may also provide talking points for the Republicans.
In a conference call with reporters, Massa, who is just 50 years old, cited a recurrence of cancer as the reason for his retirement. He angrily denounced unsubstantiated reports that he was being investigated by the House ethics committee.
Massa was diagnosed with a terminal form of lymphoma in 2001 and was forced to end his career in the Navy, which had culminated in a stint as top aide to Gen. Wesley Clark when Clark was supreme commander of NATO.
But his miraculous recovery helped inspire Massa to enter politics.
On Wednesday, he said he was hospitalized in December with a recurrence of cancer and that doctors told him he would need to get more rest.
I run at about a hundred miles an hour. And my doctors have made it clear to me that I can no longer do that, Massa said.
In a brief conversation Wednesday with the Web site Talking Points Memo, Massa conceded that he withheld the news of his hospitalization from his staff at the time.
But Politico reported earlier in the day that the House ethics committee had been alerted to a sexual harassment allegation against the freshman Congressman.
Massa did not directly address the allegations and did not take questions from reporters during the conference call. But he acknowledged that Im a salty guy who has used salty language with staff, particularly when angry and in private. Massa said he has apologized to anyone he has offended. But he said those kinds of articles unsubstantiated without fact or backing are a symptom of whats wrong with this city.
Former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R), whom national Republicans had recruited to challenge Massa, said he was saddened to hear about Massas health problems.
While the Congressman and I disagreed on political issues, I respect his military and public service and wish him the best, Reed said in a statement.
But other Republicans werent so charitable. In a statement, New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon made note of the allegations in Politico and also sought to tie Massa to embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and scandal-plagued Gov. David Paterson (D), both of whom have been rocked by waves of bad news in recent days.
Like so many other New York Democrats, his personal and professional behavior has left Massa scrambling for self-preservation rather than focused on public service. ... With each passing day it appears New York Democrats are being consumed by a culture of corruption to the point where every New Yorker must question their ability to govern, Cox said.