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Political Notebook

Kyl is fifth senator to announce retirement

Senator Jon Kyl’s decision set off a scramble to succeed him. Senator Jon Kyl’s decision set off a scramble to succeed him.
February 11, 2011

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PHOENIX — Senator Jon Kyl revealed yesterday that he will step down next year after three terms in office, creating another vacancy in a chamber about to undergo a significant makeover with several incumbents retiring or facing tough reelection challenges.

The decision by Arizona’s junior senator set off an immediate scramble for what will be Arizona’s first open Senate seat in 18 years.

Kyl, a Republican who has become a leading conservative voice on foreign affairs, said it was time to give someone else a shot at the seat he has held since 1994.

“We have a very strong bench of candidates who might want to seek the position. With all due respect to my Democratic friends, I don’t think there are as many candidates on their side that would have the prospect of winning,’’ Kyl said of 2012.

Until a month ago, one of the top prospective candidates to take on Kyl seemed to be Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat.

Kyl is the fifth senator to announce plans to retire in recent weeks, and his departure comes as welcome news to Democrats who a day earlier heard that one of their own, Jim Webb of Virginia, said he would not run again.

Former governor Janet Napolitano, currently the Homeland Security secretary, would be the strongest Democratic candidate, said Patrick Kenney, Arizona State University political science professor. She has won statewide office three times and would have a strong fund-raising advantage, he said.

Kyl, 68, has become a leading conservative voice on foreign affairs, though his clout is often overshadowed by Arizona counterpart John McCain.

Other senators who have announced plans to retire include Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, and Joseph Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.

— Associated Press

Boehner says Ohio’s Lee right to resign in scandal WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner yesterday said New York Republican Christopher Lee did the right thing when he abruptly resigned in the shadow of an Internet scandal.

But the Ohio Republican, his speakership less than two months old, refused to say whether he spoke to Lee or urged him to resign after an online gossip site posted a flirtatious exchange between the married congressman and a woman on Craigslist.

Lee made his own decision that he thought was in his own best interest and the interest of his family,’’ Boehner said.

Lee resigned Wednesday a few hours after the gossip site Gawker posted the photo and the exchange.

— Associated Press

Group wants lawmakers to stop sleeping in offices

WASHINGTON — A Washington ethics watchdog said it is time for Congress to crack down on lawmakers who sleep in their offices rather than pay for a place to live.

Reacting to an increase in first-term lawmakers bunking down on Capitol Hill, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wants the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether the politicians are getting an unfair tax break and violating their own rules by making personal use of public resources.

“House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses,’’ Melanie Sloan, the group’s executive director, said yesterday. “If members didn’t want to find housing in Washington, they shouldn’t have run for Congress in the first place.’’

For years, at least a few lawmakers have slept on couches and cots in their offices to avoid long commutes or pricey Washington rents. Some see it as a badge of honor, a commitment to frugality and hard work, and a way to show constituents they do not consider Washington home.

The group cited media reports that more than 30 lawmakers, all men, are now doing it. Sloan thinks the real total could be as many as 40 or 50 after a wave of budget-conscious, anti-Washington freshmen won in November.

Representative Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has slept in his office for years. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, brushed aside questions about the complaint.

“People have been doing it for decades,’’ he said. “I work until midnight every night. I get up at six every morning.’’

Sloan said that aside from the legal and rules questions, she has heard reports from congressional staffers about uncomfortable work environments.

Besides, she added, “who wants to run into a member of Congress in need of a shower wandering the halls in sweats or a robe?’’

— Associated Press

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