Congressman to Resign After Affair

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, an eight-term
Republican who promoted abstinence education, said Tuesday he'll
resign from Congress after admitting an extramarital affair with a
part-time staff member.

Souder won a bruising primary just two weeks ago, and the
resignation effective Friday could hurt the GOP's chances of
holding onto the Republican-leaning district in November in a year
that many expect will favor the party.

Souder, an evangelical Christian who has championed family
values and traditional marriage, apologized for his actions but
provided no details during an emotional news conference at his Fort
Wayne office.

"I am so ashamed to have hurt the ones I love," he said as he
battled tears. "I am sorry to have let so many friends down,
people who have worked so hard for me."

The announcement stunned many in political circles.

"Most people in this part of the state are as dumbfounded as
they could be," said Bob Schmuhl, a political analyst and
University of Notre Dame professor.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he was surprised and
disappointed by Souder's announcement.

"He did a wrong thing but now he's done the right thing,"
Daniels said.

A spokeswoman from Daniels' office said a special election will
be held to fill the vacancy. The winner would complete the
remainder of Souder's term that ends in January.

Republican and Democratic precinct committeemen in the district
will choose nominees for the special election, and GOP precinct
officials would choose a candidate for the November ballot. The
special election cannot be held until at least 60 days after the
vacancy occurs.

Throughout his time in Congress, Souder made his evangelical
Christianity a centerpiece of his public persona. He was known for
his outspoken views on religion and his uncompromising conservative
positions on social issues such as abortion.

He said after a 2008 hearing on abstinence-only education that
the only fully reliable way young people can protect themselves
from pregnancy and STDs is by "abstaining from sex until in a
committed, faithful relationship."

Around the same time, he also recorded a video interview with a
staff member in which he stressed the importance of abstinence
education.

As a lawmaker, Souder was best known for his work on drug
enforcement issues and his opposition to online gambling. Souder
played an important role in 2006 legislation signed by President
George W. Bush that targeted methamphetamine dealers.

"To serve has been a blessing and a responsibility given from
God. I wish I could have been a better example," Souder said, his
voice breaking. "I sinned against God, my wife and my family by
having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."

He said he chose to resign rather than subject his family to a
"painful, drawn-out process" in what he called "the poisonous
environment of Washington, D.C."

"I'm sick of politicians who drag their spouses in front of the
cameras rather than confronting the problems that they've caused,"
he said.

Souder, 59, has been married to Diane since 1974, according to
the biography on his office website. They have three adult children
and two grandchildren.

Souder was seeking a ninth term after winning the May 4
Republican primary with 48 percent of the vote. His GOP opponent,
car dealer Bob Thomas, spent much of his own money on television
commercials portraying Souder as a career politician who wasn't a
true fiscal conservative. Souder countered by emphasizing his
A-plus marks from the National Rifle Association and 100 percent
rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

In November, Souder was to face Democrat Tom Hayhurst, a former
Fort Wayne city councilman who got 46 percent of the vote against
Souder in 2006 - the toughest challenge since Souder was first
elected in 1994.

Hayhurst said in statement that his thoughts and prayers were
with Souder and his family.

"I'm not running for Congress to run against anyone, but I'm
running because I think I can help change Washington and that will
not change not matter who is in the race," Hayhurst said.

Republicans hope the GOP tendencies will prevail in November in
the district that John McCain carried by more than 10 points in the
2008 presidential election.

One possible Republican replacement for Souder is state Sen.
Marlin Stutzman of Howe, who finished second to former Sen. Dan
Coats in this month's GOP primary for the U.S. Senate.

Souder's resignation continues a significant turnover among
Indiana's congressional delegation this year.

Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh announced in February he wouldn't seek
re-election, saying he had tired of Congress. Democratic Rep. Brad
Ellsworth is leaving his southern Indiana seat to run for Bayh's
position.

Republican Rep. Steve Buyer, who had been under fire over a
foundation he'd set up to award college scholarships, said he
January he wouldn't seek a 10th term in the House after his wife
was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease.


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