Rep. Tim Murphy announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election, following revelations that he urged a woman with whom he had an affair to get an abortion.
The Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement that he would not run for a ninth term in Congress. He said there was still work to be done and he would serve out the remainder of his term.
“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,” Murphy said. “I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”
Murphy first admitted last month to having an affair with forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards. The affair came to light amid Edwards’ divorce proceedings.
But on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported new details of text messages between Edwards and Murphy, in which Edwards referenced Murphy urging her to have an abortion. According to the newspaper, the discussion was in reference to an “unfounded pregnancy scare.”
Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, voted Tuesday night for a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.
Politico reported that Murphy met with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Wednesday. A Ryan spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about the meeting.
An open seat
Murphy’s decision means there will be an open-seat race in the 18th District, located in the western part of the Keystone State and encompassing areas surrounding Pittsburgh.
Some Republican support was already beginning to gather around state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, according to a GOP source in Pennsylvania. Reschenthaler runs the GOP campaign arm in the state Senate. He has also served as a Navy JAG officer and volunteered in Iraq.
GOP state Rep. Jason Ortitay is another potential candidate. He is the president of Jason’s Cheesecake Company in Pittsburgh. State Rep. Rick Saccone, who is running for Senate, could move to the House race instead.
Murphy ran unopposed in 2014 and 2016. But a handful of Democrats were already running before the congressman’s announcement, including Navy veteran Pam Iovino, who was recently endorsed by VoteVets. Former Allegheny County Council Member Mike Crossey and physician Robert Solomon are also running.
Murphy’s departure may not ease the path for a Democrat to win the 18th District.
Mental health advocate
Murphy’s retirement comes after nearly 15 years in Congress. First elected in 2002, he has been a staunch advocate for overhauling mental health care.
Edwards reportedly said that she met the congressman while advocating his mental health legislation in 2015. Her husband, physician Jesse Sally, alleged Edwards began a relationship with Murphy last year.
Some of Murphy’s mental health provisions were included in the 21st Century Cures Act, a broad health care bill signed into law at the end of last year.
He dove into the issue following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 children. One year after the shooting, Murphy introduced his own mental health overhaul legislation, and was frustrated by the inaction that followed over the next few years.
“It’s been very frustrating. It’s a lesson in patience and prayer,” Murphy said in a December 2015 interview. He pointed to the pictures of four children killed at Sandy Hook that he kept on his side table.
“I don’t put these here for show,” Murphy said. “Their parents gave them to me. And I see them every day. And I’ve made a promise to them to do something about it because I know about this issue.”
But his work on the issue also vexed some Democrats, who said he did not work with them enough.
Murphy has also been vocal on the opioid crisis and trade issues, and chairs the Congressional Steel Caucus.
Before coming to Congress, Murphy served in the state Senate. Prior to entering politics, he worked as a psychologist. He also had his own radio and television advice program, on which he was known as “Dr. Tim.”
Murphy said in the 2015 interview that he continued to offer advice to his colleagues.
While describing how many colleagues were aware of the challenges facing the mental health system, he talked about the “brass rail consults” he had with them, a reference to the brass railings that line the back of the House floor.
“Members come up to me and say, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ I know they’re going to tell me something about a family member,” Murphy said. “And there’s a lot of people who’ve got a primary family member, or themselves, who are dealing with this. And that remains confidential.”
Though some of his mental health provisions became law, Murphy remained active on health issues as part of the Energy and Commerce Committee and as chairman of its Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.
While serving in Congress, Murphy joined the Naval Reserves in 2009, and practiced psychology at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the traumatic brain injury/post-traumatic stress disorder unit.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Murphy retired from the Navy last month. The paper had also reported that the Navy was reviewing the circumstances around his affair.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.