Scandal-Tarred GOP Rep. Meehan Will Retire, Opening Up Swing Seat

UNITED STATES - JUNE 21: Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on June 21, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 21: Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on June 21, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) will retire at the end of his term, he told GOP leaders Thursday, days after it became public that a senior staffer had accused him of sexual misconduct and he’d settled using taxpayer dollars.

Meehan’s decision comes after he sought to defend his relationship with a former aide, arguing it had never been sexual in nature while at the same time admitting that he’d acted inappropriately toward her.

The congressman until recently sat on the powerful House Ethics Committee that oversaw investigations of scandals, including sexual harassment claims, and his burgeoning scandal threatened to further damage the national image of a party that’s already struggling badly with female voters in recent polls and elections.

His decision to retire opens up a swing House seat in suburban Philadelphia. Democrats would likely be favored to win this seat in what’s shaping up to be a good year, and a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the GOP-drawn congressional map is an illegal partisan gerrymander may make the district even more Democratic, giving the party a prime pickup opportunity.

Republicans walked a fine line in acknowledging Meehan’s decision to leave, declining to criticize him directly while promising to hold his seat.

“While I’m disappointed by the circumstances leading to Congressman Meehan’s retirement, I thank him for his dedication to his district. We must always hold ourselves to the highest possible standard – especially while serving in Congress,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) said in a Thursday night statement. “I am confident that the voters of Pennsylvania’s 7th District will elect a strong conservative who will represent their values.”
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