Congressman Chris Lee’s (R-NY) abrupt resignation yesterday was shocking news. He permanently left the House of Representatives just three hours after the scandal hit, and his decision surprised many because it was a political storm he could have survived. Then Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN) did the same thing last year.
He also was confronted with accusations of adultery, and left by saying “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.”
Chris Lee has a beautiful wife and family, a net worth of $8.7 million, and had just been appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Lee, 46, was highly regarded and his speeches on job creation were effective. He ran a family manufacturing business, and transformed it from a small machine shop to a global enterprise.
He appeared to have a bright future until his e-mail exchange with a 34 year old woman was revealed. The Washington Post commented:
What married politician would be stupid enough to troll for women online using his real name, email and photo? It used to be, when people in power had affairs, they did it right. You met people and committed indiscretions in person, the old-fashioned way.
Lee did not tell the woman he was a Member of Congress, but she figured it out by tracing his e-mail address which was linked to his now discontinued Facebook profile. She was initially upset because he claimed to be seven years younger than his actual age. A snap poll in his district last night showed 67% of the people saying he should not have resigned.
New York is rarely a safe place for Republicans, although the GOP does have an advantage in this district. Lee was re-elected in 2010 with 74% of the vote against a weak challenger. There will not be a primary to select Lee’s replacement. Instead, party leaders will choose the candidates.
The logical choice is State Senator George Maziarz, who says he is “very interested.” However, if the GOP loses his seat it would mean the Senate would flip to Democratic control.
Wealthy Assemblywoman Jane Corwin has an impressive record and would have the ability to self fund her campaign. She is the mother of three children and has an MBA.
She defeated incumbent Mike Cole in the 2008 GOP primary. He had been censured by the legislature after admitting to drinking excessively with a student intern and spending the night in her apartment.
Several of Corwin’s budget cutting ideas have already been adopted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). They include a pay freeze for public employees and a property tax cap. Some prominent district leaders have already described her as the frontrunner. Corwin is not making any statement about a campaign but spoke of the states financial crisis:
Years of irresponsible spending, no accountability and rampant special interest lobbying have created a $10 billion budget problem in New York. We hold a dubious distinction: our median property tax bill is 96% higher than the national average. No state known as the tax capital of the world will have an optimistic future.
The seat is viewed as one potential casualty of the coming redistricting process. Though it did not lose as much population as the neighboring districts represented by Reps. Louise Slaughter and Brian Higgins, it is nonetheless part of a region that hemorrhaged population since the last Census. New York will be losing two Congressional seats in 2012.