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Idaho senator, Republicans await voters' judgment on scandal over bathroom arrest

Idaho senator, Republicans await voters' judgment on scandal over bathroom arrest

Senator Larry Craig has apologized to the residents of Idaho and now waits _ along with officials of both U.S. political parties _ to see if voters are in any mood to forgive and forget the scandal tied to his arrest in a men's bathroom.
Idaho Republicans possess a fiercely independent streak, characterized by a healthy dose of libertarian values and distrust of the U.S. federal government and the media. They generally hold deep religious beliefs and conservative social values.
"It all makes it hard sometimes to predict exactly how Idahoans would vote or how Idaho politicians will act on certain issues," said James Weatherby, a professor emeritus at Boise State University who knew Craig when they were students at the University of Idaho.
Craig, 62, a third-term senator up for re-election next year, defended himself Tuesday against a police report alleging he attempted to engage in a homosexual encounter with an undercover officer.
Flanked by his wife, Suzanne, Craig stated three times that he was not gay. He cast his arrest for lewd conduct as unfounded and his subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct as an error in judgment spurred by frustration with the state's biggest newspaper prying into his past.
The Idaho Statesman published a lengthy story on Tuesday, a day after the June 11 arrest was first reported, detailing allegations of homosexual behavior by Craig. The senator denied the allegations and contended the paper was engaged in a witch hunt. In a statement, the newspaper said its story spoke for itself.
"While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away," Craig said. "It's clear, though, that through my actions I have brought a cloud over Idaho. For that, I ask the people of Idaho for their forgiveness."
The Idaho Republican Party took a wait-and-see stance, while Democrats were not commenting. The Republicans' biggest names reminded voters of Craig's tenure in the Senate and his powerful seat on the Appropriations Committee.
"I would encourage all Idahoans to avoid rushing to judgment and making brash statements about a man who has dedicated his life to public service," the Republican Party's state chairman, Kirk Sullivan, said in a statement.
Ignoring that plea, some social and religious conservatives and right-wing radio talk show hosts called for Craig's resignation. And political analysts said Craig would have trouble convincing state voters that his 27-year political career was worth sparing.
"I think what makes it very difficult is the guilty plea," said Randy Stapilus, a former political editor at the Idaho Statesman who has a political blog. "That is something a lot of people will have a tough time getting around."
In Idaho, with its 1.4 million people, politicians know many supporters by name. The state also likes its Republicans, who control the statehouse and Congress. U.S. President George W. Bush received 68 percent of the state's votes in 2004.
More than 166,000 residents are Roman Catholic and more than 385,000 Mormon.
Republican leaders in the Senate called for an Ethics Committee review of the case.
"This is a serious matter," they said in a written statement issued in Washington over the names of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, and several others.
Two Republicans seeking the party's presidential nomination did not mince words. Mitt Romney, in whose campaign Craig was playing a prominent role until he quit amid the scandal, told CNBC: "He's disappointed the American people." On Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show," Sen. John McCain said, "It's disgraceful."
Reports state that police Sgt. Dave Karsnia was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in Minneapolis airport restrooms when he went into a stall. The complaint against Craig alleged that he employed "a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
Craig was arrested, read his rights, fingerprinted and photographed for a mug shot released by police showing him in coat and tie. He signed a guilty plea on Aug. 1 and paid US$575 in fines and fees, and was placed on unsupervised probation for a year.


Updated : 2021-08-02 05:41 GMT+08:00