As the Senator Turns 

Once upon a time Idaho was a fairly routine place for politics, but ever since Sen. Larry Craig pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct in Minnesota, it's been all about the drama.

With plot lines as twisted as a soap opera, the Craig scandal has taken one turn after another. First, he vowed to fight for his seat; then he intended to resign, then he was thinking about fighting again; now it appears he actually will resign by his Sept. 30 deadline.

"That's still the expectation," said Craig's spokesperson Dan Whiting.

While Craig has yet to return to Washington, D.C., despite the end of congress' summer recess, he has managed to hire a new lawyer, high-powered Washington attorney Stanley Brand. His first action was to request that the Senate Ethics Committee drop its investigation into Craig's arrest, stating that the incident was unrelated to Craig's official duties.

The Senate Ethics Committee rejected that request last week. In the letter sent in response to Craig's request, the Ethics Committee states that it is their right to investigate "members who engage in improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate."

The letter also pointedly hints that ethics investigations have been called off in the past when subjects of such investigations resign their posts.

On Monday, Craig filed papers to withdraw his guilty plea in Minnesota.

The filing places partial blame for Craig's reaction to his arrest on the Idaho Statesman, which was conducting an in-depth investigation into allegations that Craig had solicited gay sex in the Washington, D.C. area.

"Senator Craig felt compelled to grasp the lifeline offered him by the police officer, namely that if he were to submit to an interview and plead guilty, then none of the officer's allegations would be made public," the motion reads.

The reasons offered as to why the plea should be withdrawn include that Craig did not fully understand the plea because he never spoke with a judge, and that there is insufficient evidence to support the officer's claims.

In the meantime, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has moved forward with the process of finding a replacement for Craig, should he in fact step down.

While Rep. Mike Simpson removed his name from the short list of candidates, Otter has named several other possibilities, including Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (who has previously stated an interest in running for the seat), Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, former state Sen. Dane Watkins, former Lt. Gov. David Leroy and state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, (R-Hayden Lake).

One of the latest names added to that list is state Sen. John McGee (R-Caldwell), who said he learned about the decision on Sept. 7.

McGee, 34, said he had a conversation with Otter on an unrelated subject the day before, at which point Otter asked if he would be interested in the position.

"I'm honored that the governor put me on his list," McGee said, adding that he's trying not to focus on it right now. "I have another job to do in the meantime," he said. "It sounds like a canned answer, but it's true. It's nice to be considered, but I have a duty to serve my constituents."

Otter has yet to announce any timeline for a decision.

In the meantime, Idaho and the rest of the nation will just have to wait to see what happens next in the Larry Craig saga.

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