WASHINGTON — Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania, facing backlash after revelations that he settled a sexual harassment complaint brought by a former aide, will not seek re-election this year.
Mr. Meehan informed Speaker Paul D. Ryan of his decision in a letter sent on Thursday, according to Doug Andres, a spokesman for Mr. Ryan.
The decision is an abrupt reversal for Mr. Meehan, 62, who this week had insisted that he intended to run for re-election to a fifth term representing his suburban Philadelphia district, even as the House Ethics Committee investigated the sexual harassment allegations and his use of taxpayer money to settle them.
Mr. Meehan, a father of three, had faced increasing pressure to step down after The New York Times revealed on Saturday that a former aide decades his junior had filed a complaint against him last summer, and that Mr. Meehan had used his congressional office fund to pay her thousands of dollars to settle it. She had accused him of making unwanted romantic overtures to her after he learned that she had developed a serious relationship with a man closer to her age. After the aide rebuffed Mr. Meehan, he became hostile, her complaint said.
Mr. Meehan and his representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday evening.
But in a letter sent Thursday to his campaign chairman, Mr. Meehan wrote that “recent events concerning my office and the settlement of certain harassment allegations have become a major distraction,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which obtained a copy of the letter. “I need to own it because it is my own conduct that fueled the matter.”
In an interview on Tuesday with The Times, Mr. Meehan denied harassing the aide. Instead, he asserted that she “specifically invited” his intimate communications, which included conversations and a letter in which he professed his affection for her — calling her “a complete partner to me.”
Mr. Meehan, who had taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, had become increasingly politically isolated since the settlement was revealed.
He was stripped of his position on the House Ethics Committee by Mr. Ryan, who also said that Mr. Meehan should repay the amount of the settlement.
And on Monday, the committee announced that it had started an investigation into the aide’s accusations and the possibility that Mr. Meehan had “misused official resources” by using funds from his congressional office to settle her complaint. If Mr. Meehan remains in Congress through the end of his term, the committee would retain jurisdiction to continue its investigation.
Debra Katz, a lawyer for Mr. Meehan’s former aide, urged the Ethics Committee to accelerate its investigation “to ensure full accountability before he leaves office.”
The woman, whom The Times is not naming, is “cooperating fully” with the investigation, Ms. Katz said, calling on the committee to penalize Mr. Meehan for violating a nondisclosure agreement contained in the settlement. Ms. Katz said Mr. Meehan “re-traumatized” the woman by “blaming her for what the public now knows from his own explanations was highly inappropriate behavior.”
Republicans, who were already facing an uphill battle in retaining the moderate district, welcomed the news of Mr. Meehan’s impending retirement headed into an election year in which sexual misconduct has emerged as a potent issue.
Val DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said in a statement that Mr. Meehan “made the right decision for the voters of the Seventh District and himself.” Mr. DiGiorgio called it “a sad ending to what was an otherwise noteworthy career of a dedicated public servant.”
Representative Steve Stivers, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, released a statement saying that he was “disappointed by the circumstances” leading to Mr. Meehan’s retirement, and declaring that “we must always hold ourselves to the highest possible standard — especially while serving in Congress.”
The news could set off a scramble for Republicans before a primary in May. The deadline for candidates to submit petitions to appear on the ballot is March 6.
And Mr. Meehan’s decision resets the calculus for a field of at least three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to run in the sprawling district, which is considered among the most severely gerrymandered in the country and which Hillary Clinton narrowly carried in the 2016 presidential election.
Adding to the uncertainty, Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state’s Republican-drawn congressional district map violates the state’s Constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redrawn in the coming weeks.
Pennsylvania Republicans have pledged to try to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. If the ruling stands, it is expected to tilt the state’s electoral battlefield further in Democrats’ direction.
Mr. Meehan’s announcement makes him the latest in a series of lawmakers to resign or announce their retirements after being accused of sexual misconduct.
Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota; Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona; and Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, have resigned. Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, and Ruben Kihuen, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, remain in office but have said they will not seek re-election.
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