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Misconduct controversy derails career of New York GOP congressman

A week ago, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) had reason to feel some optimism about his political future. Now, a misconduct controversy has derailed his career.
Rep. Tom Reed
Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., speaks on Capitol Hill in 2019.Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP file

A week ago, Rep. Tom Reed's (R-N.Y.) had reason to feel some optimism about his political future. The New York Republican won re-election last fall by nearly 17 points in a relatively competitive district, and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) facing multiple scandals, Reed was seen as a leading GOP candidate for governor in 2022 -- speculation the congressman was eager to promote.

Indeed, Reed said he'd made combating sexual violence and harassment one of his top issues, and the more Cuomo faced serious allegations, the more justified the congressman felt in positioning himself as one of the governor's top critics.

Last week, however, everything changed. The Washington Post reported on allegations from Nicolette Davis, a then-lobbyist who found herself seated next to Reed in 2017. She described a situation in which the congressman, apparently drunk, allegedly rubbed her back, unhooked her bra, and moved his hand to her thigh.

According to her version of events, Davis, now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, asked someone seated on her other side for help. He obliged, pulled the congressman away, and escorted him from the restaurant.

Though the GOP lawmaker's office said the claims were "not accurate," the allegations were detailed and seemed to be corroborated by witnesses. This was a controversy that appeared unlikely to quietly fade away.

Two days after Davis' allegations were published, Reed announced his retirement. The Associated Press reported overnight:

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from western New York who was accused last week of rubbing a female lobbyist's back and unhooking her bra without her consent in 2017, apologized to the woman on Sunday and announced that he will not run for reelection next year. Reed, 49, said in a statement that the incident involving then-lobbyist Nicolette Davis occurred "at a time in my life in which I was struggling." He said he entered treatment that year and realized he was "powerless over alcohol."

In case this isn't obvious, Reed is not just retiring from Congress -- he's also not running for governor or any other office next year.

In yesterday's statement, the New York Republican added, in reference to Nicolette Davis, "In his statement Sunday he said, "In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility."

If Reed's name sounds at all familiar to a national audience, it may be because the GOP lawmaker is the current co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, ostensibly a group of congressional moderates committed to compromising and finding common ground. (In reality, Reed's Problem Solvers Caucus very rarely managed to solve problems.)

He's also the first House Republican to announce his retirement ahead of the 2022 midterm election cycle. Whether Reed will face a congressional ethics investigation ahead of his departure from Capitol Hill next year is unclear.