That didn’t take long. Just a day after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette exposed a text message in which the mistress of pro-life Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) ripped him for hypocrisy by suggesting she seek an abortion, the seven-term Congressman announced his retirement at the end of this session:
“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term,” the Upper St. Clair Republican said in a statement.
“I plan to spend my remaining months in office continuing my work as the national leader on mental health care reform, as well as issues affecting working families in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
The text message emerged from the divorce proceedings of Shannon Edwards, who had been Murphy’s mistress for six months, and her estranged husband, Dr. Jesse Sally. Sally demanded Murphy’s testimony as a material witness a month earlier. Murphy admitted the affair at the time, but the text message didn’t come up until Tuesday. Murphy’s retirement statement doesn’t address that exchange, but it’s not really necessary; Murphy’s response to her angry text constitutes at least a tacit admission:
“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare. …
A text from Mr. Murphy’s cell phone number that same day in response says, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
The congressman has been lauded by the Family Research Council, for his stance on abortion, as well as for family values, generally. He also has been endorsed by LifePAC, which opposes abortion rights, and is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, an affiliation that is often cited by his office.
My guess is that those groups will be taking down Murphy’s pictures … soon. We’re all sinners in some way, and people make mistakes, but pressing one’s mistress to have an abortion is about as far away from family values as it gets. It’s almost a parody of hypocrisy, one that fits into regular accusations from abortion defenders who claim that pro-lifers would have abortions if they found themselves dealing with a crisis pregnancy. For most of us, that’s a horrible slander, but Murphy has given those abortion advocates an example that they will never tire of using against us. Good riddance.
What happens to PA-18 now? Republicans may be in good shape to hold it. Murphy’s early announcement gives the GOP time to develop candidates for a primary in Pennsylvania’s southwest corner. The district has a Cook rating of R+11, and Donald Trump won its constituent counties by 2-1 margins in 2016 (Greene, Washington, Westmoreland). In 2012, Mitt Romney won them by slightly smaller margins. Any open seat presents a risk for the previously incumbent party, but the risk is limited in PA-18.
Democrats already have three candidates who have filed for the seat, none of whom hold any public office at the moment. The Post-Gazette names two Republican state legislators as potential contenders, Rep. Rick Saccone and Sen. Guy Reschenthaler. Saccone had been looking at a challenge to US Sen. Bob Casey next year, but sounds as though he can be talked into the House race instead:
“What our congressman has done, if it’s true, has certainly disgraced the office. And if the people want me to take on that job, I would certainly look at trying to restore dignity back to the office,” Mr. Saccone [said].
That would be a nice start.
Update: Salena Zito has a perfect coda to this story: