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« Critz, Burns Battle For Murtha Seat | Blog Home Page | Super Tuesday? Not For Another Three Weeks »

Souder To Retire Over Reported Affair

Yet another big story to spice up a big primary day: Fox News is reporting that Indiana Rep. Mark Souder (R) will resign after an affair with a staffer was revealed.

Elected as a family values conservative as part of the Republican revolution in 1994, Souder survived a tough re-election challenge in 2008 and survived a contested primary two weeks ago.

Souder was absent from Washington most of last week, missing multiple votes and only voting on Thursday.

Souder's resignation would make him the second lawmaker to step down in less than two months. In March, former Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed male staffers. Massa's case is now before the House Ethics Committee.

Indiana's 3rd Congressional District covers the northeast corner of the state, with Fort Wayne the largest city in its borders. John McCain carried the district with 56 percent of the vote in 2008, meaning it's slanted toward the Republicans. The current Democratic nominee for the seat is former Fort Wayne Councilman Tom Hayhurst, who lost to Souder in 2006 by a 54-46 margin.

When and if Souder resigns may determine whether a special election is called to fill the seat for the remainder of the year. New York Gov. David Paterson (D) has set a precedent of not calling an election until this fall, something Republicans opposed. The Indiana GOP holds its state convention June 19, where they may be able to choose a new nominee for the regularly-scheduled November election.

UPDATE: The Indiana Secretary of State has issued a statement outlining the procedure for filling Souder's seat by special election. Read more after the jump:

Souder has announced his intention to resign, but it is not considered official until received by the Speaker of the House. Once it is official and the governor is notified, he is free to choose a date; according to state law, it can occur sooner than 60 days of a vacancy being declared, but there is no deadline beyond that.

When a date is announced, the major state parties have 30 days to call caucuses that will nominate candidates for the special election. Democrats would likely nominate Hayhurst.

As for November's election, Souder has until July 15 to request that his name be removed from the ballot. Any of the GOP candidates who lost in the primary two weeks ago can file to run again; a caucus of precinct committeemen whose precincts are within the congressional district will choose the new candidate.