U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy to resign amid affair scandal

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who earlier admitted to an affair, announced he will resign his seat later this month.

Congressman Tim Murphy

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who earlier admitted to an affair, announced he will resign his seat later this month after text messages with his mistress showed he urged her to have an abortion after they initially thought she might be pregnant.

Murphy, an eight-term Republican congressman from Upper St. Clair, notified House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday he planned to resign from office effective Oct. 21. That decision came a day after he announced he would not seek re-election following a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report showing the text messages in January between himself and Shannon Edwards, which were obtained by the newspaper after it first reported on Edwards’ divorce proceedings last month. It turned out Edwards was not pregnant.

On the same day the report was posted on the newspaper’s website, Murphy, a longtime pro-life advocate, voted to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate.

The newspaper also reported on a memo from his chief of staff Susan Mosychuk written in June detailing a hostile work environment in which he terrorized his staff and had a nearly 100 percent turnover rate over the past year.

His 18th congressional district, which contains most of the South Hills, includes parts of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Murphy was expected to be a target by Democrats in the 2018 election after three candidates earlier this year announced their intentions to run. Mike Crossey of Mt. Lebanon, a former Keystone Oaks schoolteacher and Allegheny County councilman, former Navy officer Pam Iovino and physician Bob Solomon have said they plan to run in the Democratic primary.

But his soon-to-be-vacant seat is now attracting the attention of Republicans. State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills announced his candidacy Wednesday night just hours after Murphy said he wouldn’t run again in 2018. With Murphy’s departure now imminent, others are expected to follow.

Reschenthaler, a former magisterial district judge, won a special election in 2015 to succeed Matt Smith in the 37th state Senatorial District, which includes Peters Township in Washington County and a large swath of Allegheny County’s South Hills and airport corridor. Reschenthaler served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s office during the Iraq war.

“We need leaders in Washington with the backbone to fight for our shared Western Pennsylvania values, and we need Republicans in Congress who will fight for conservative principles,” Reschenthaler said in a news release.

Mike Mikus, a Democratic operative from South Fayette who has worked on local and statewide races, tweeted that Murphy’s “political corpse ain’t even cold yet” before Reschenthaler made his announcement. Mikus later said in an interview Thursday morning that the quick announcement was in “poor taste” and that Reschenthaler should have waited longer.

Still, Murphy’s departure will change the dynamics of the district and surrounding areas, Mikus said.

“Obviously, it changes a great deal,” he said. “It will create a domino effect within the Republican Party.”

He pointed to other elected Republicans who must now decide between running for a state legislative seat or opt to run for Congress.

“If you look statistically, when someone is elected to Congress, they’re going to serve for a while,” he said. “It’s a risk a lot of elected officials and aspiring officials are willing to take.”

One of those down-ballot candidates could be state Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican from Elizabeth who is campaigning for U.S. Senate to challenge Bob Casey. Hours before learning of Murphy’s resignation, Saccone said Thursday morning he was “closely monitoring that seat” and would be inclined to run if Murphy left office immediately rather than waiting for his term to expire, meaning each party would select a candidate to run in a special election to fill the remaining term.

“I think I would be good for that seat and would return the integrity to that office after Tim Murphy disgraced it,” Saccone said.

He added that there is still time before he must decide whether to abandon his Senate run in favor of the congressional seat.

“So many things can happen between now and then. In politics, a week is like a year,” Saccone said. “You saw with what happened to Murphy. Not a lot of people would’ve predicted that.”

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, who represents portions of Westmoreland County, also announced her candidacy Thursday afternoon less than an hour after news of Murphy’s resignation broke.

“The folks of this district deserve to have a representative they can trust to fight for our beliefs and values in Washington, D.C.,” she said in a written statement. “I know we can do better.”

Mikus expects it will also open the door for more Democrats to run, even though Murphy has won by comfortable margins since his first election in 2002.

“From a Democratic side, you might see more people take a hard look and jump in,” Mikus said. “I might be in the minority, but I believe this seat is competitive. It leans Republican, but I think the right Democrat with the right profile can win.”

Staff writer Barbara S. Miller contributed to this story.