August 8, 2006
Ney drops out, won’t seek reelection but plans to complete his
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – After months of insisting he would fight for his
re-election until the end, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio on Monday called
The embattled lawmaker announced he was dropping his bid for a
seventh term but would serve out the remainder of the year. Ney,
R-Heath, indicated a continuing federal probe of his alleged
involvement in influence peddling is taking too big a toll on
“Ultimately this decision came down to my family,” he said in a
written statement. “I must think of them first, and I can no
longer put them through this ordeal.”
The announcement took fellow lawmakers and political observers
by surprise, although reports surfaced Monday that House
Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, had been quietly pressing
Ney to step aside.
Rep. Ralph Regula, whose congressional district borders Ney’s,
said he had no indication Ney would withdraw.
“He had his reasons, I’m sure,” said Regula, R-Bethlehem
Township. Regula said he hasn’t talked with Ney since Congress
recessed last week.
Although Ney has not been charged with a crime and denies doing
anything wrong, federal investigators are probing his dealings
with former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded
guilty in January to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion.
Abramoff and Ney’s former chief of staff, Neil Volz, say they
provided Ney with free meals, campaign contributions and other
gifts in return for legislative favors.
Two other former lobbyists also leveled similar allegations
against Ney when they pleaded guilty in the scheme.
Ney, 52, has vowed to fight the charges, but contributions to
his legal defense fund have dried up.
“It came down to his family,” said his spokeswoman Katie Harbath.
“He’s going to spend some time with his family now.”
Ney and his wife, Liz, have two children from his first
The decision adds more uncertainty to a congressional race that
already was one of the most closely watched in the nation.
Analysts said the scandal gave Democrats a good shot at picking
up the seat, a view bolstered by polls released by both
campaigns that showed the race close or Ney trailing.
state Sen. Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton, quickly announced she would
seek the Republican nomination for the 18th District
congressional seat. Ney was locked in a tough re-election battle
with Democrat Zack Space, the Dover law director.
Financial analyst James Brodbelt Harris of Zanesville, who
challenged Ney in the May Republican primary, also is
considering a run.
Some analysts speculated Ney dropped out after realizing he had
little chance of winning or because he is preparing for an
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center
for Politics, said Ney finally may have seen the handwriting on
“He can easily see the meat grinder going all the way to
November and then he loses the seat, too,” he said. “Better to
withdraw a winner than a loser.”
Others believe Ney stepped aside to fight possible charges
stemming from the Abramoff investigation. Legal observers said
Ney’s withdrawal would not have any impact on what action
federal prosecutors might take.
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that he’s expecting an
indictment,” said Norman J. Ornstein, who follows Congress for
the American Enterprise Institute. “You know, this
(investigation) has been going on for a long time, and he’s
already been targeted.”
Stanley M. Brand, a Washington defense lawyer who formerly
served as a counsel to the House Democrats, said Ney may be
“girding to fight a battle with the Justice Department and
understands that it’s very hard to fight a two-front war.”
Ney’s attorneys deny there were any legal considerations in his
Ney “recognizes that the ongoing investigation has created a
tremendous amount of media speculation and has become an issue
in the current race,” his attorneys Mark H. Tuohey and William
E. Lawler said in a statement.
They added that Ney “wants the voters of his district to be able
to have an election focused on issues and not distractions, and
for that reason, he has taken his name off the ballot.”
“In terms of the ongoing investigation, we have repeatedly made
clear that Congressman Ney has done nothing wrong, and there is
no credible basis to charge him with a violation of the law,”
the attorneys said, adding that Ney will defend himself
vigorously if charged.
Ney has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees
out of his campaign fund. Harbath said “a lot of stuff is still
being worked out” and she did not know if Ney would continue to
use that fund for his legal bills.
Reacting to the announcement, New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, who
heads the House Republicans’ campaign arm, called the 18th a
“ruby red Republican district.” He expressed confidence the
district “will remain in GOP hands come November.”
But Space’s campaign called Ney’s decision a desperate move by
Republicans to hold on to the seat. Space wasted no time trying
to tie Padgett closely to Ney.
“Bob Ney represented the culture of corruption in Washington,
and Joy Padgett represents the culture of corruption in
Columbus,” Space’s campaign manager, Joe Shafer, said in a
“Joy Padgett is tied at the hip to the most corrupt politicians
in Ohio: Bob Ney, Bob Taft and Jim Petro. For Joy Padgett, being
handpicked by Ney and appointed by Taft is quite an indictment,”
the statement said.
In his statement, Ney said he made his decision after much
consideration and thought.
“I am extremely proud of my 25 years serving the people of Ohio.
We’ve accomplished many things to make this state better, and I
will always be grateful for the trust my constituents put in
me,” he said.
Toby Eckert of Copley News Service contributed to this story.