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Scandal-plagued Congressman Tim Murphy won't seek another term

| Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 7:09 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Murphy of Upper St. Clair sent  a letter announcing his resignation, effective Oct. 21, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced.
U.S. Rep. Murphy of Upper St. Clair sent a letter announcing his resignation, effective Oct. 21, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA)
REUTERS
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA)

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy announced Wednesday that he will not seek a ninth term in Washington as a marital scandal envelops him, including allegations that the married, pro-life Republican asked his mistress to get an abortion.

“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek re-election to Congress at the end of my current term,” Murphy, 65, of Upper St. Clair, 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,” Murphy added.

Murphy said in the brief statement that he planned to take personal time in the coming weeks “to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing.”

Murphy admitted last month to having an extramarital affair with a friend. The affair became an issue in the ongoing divorce case of Murphy's mistress, Shannon Edwards, 33, and Jesse Sally, 36, both of Pittsburgh.

In a court order last month, Murphy was directed to produce a record of communications he shared with Edwards, including emails and text messages.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that text messages showed Murphy asked Edwards to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant; she turned out not to be. Murphy also claimed that he never personally wrote the anti-abortion messages he delivered at annual March for Life rallies in Washington. Rather, he said staffers did and he “winced” upon reading them.

“We're discouraged and shocked. We expected better of him,” said Mary Lou Gartner, secretary of LifePAC, a political action committee in Southwestern Pennsylvania that endorses candidates with pro-life voting records and beliefs.

Gartner said LifePAC endorsed Murphy in the past, and the congressman has had a “100 percent pro-life voting record” during his time in Washington.

Murphy voted Tuesday for a House bill that he cosponsored to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“I always considered him to be honorable,” Gartner said. “If the comments he made are true, it discredits him.”

Murphy is such an entrenched incumbent in his heavily Republican congressional district that Democrats didn't even mount a campaign against him in the past two elections. None of his six contested races was close — he won by 16 percentage points in the narrowest victory.

His district includes parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties.

“Something like this is a political earthquake,” Democratic strategist Mike Mikus, who lives in Murphy's district, said of the scandal.

“Voters tend to forgive politicians for certain indiscretions, but the biggest issue here is the hypocrisy on the abortion issue,” Mikus said. “He's always worked hard, had a voting record that reflected his district in some ways and was one of those elected officials who seemed to be everywhere. All of that is broken now.”

The divorce case involving Murphy continued Wednesday in Allegheny County Court.

Sally's attorney, Dorothy Wolbert, said the congressman still had not appeared for a deposition despite repeated attempts to schedule one. He was supposed to have been deposed by Sept. 29.

Edwards' attorney, Timothy Gricks, said he is appealing parts of the case to a higher court, saying Murphy should not have to be deposed since he has already admitted to having a sexual relationship with Edwards.

Gricks said court records in the case should not be made public, saying the records were being sought only for “scandalous” purposes.

“I believe that the depositions are not in the interest of justice in this case,” Gricks said.

Wolbert said the deposition was still needed, citing differing accounts from Edwards of what exactly happened between her and Murphy.

Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco said she did not believe Gricks had grounds for an appeal.

Attorneys for Edwards and for Murphy scheduled a date for the deposition but did not make the date public.

Tom Fontaine and Wes Venteicher are Tribune-Review staff writers.

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