AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | 5:23 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
WASHINGTON — It was the House Democrats’ leader Nancy Pelosi who started the trend Monday, when she released a statement almost immediately after Rep. Anthony Weiner issued his tearful apology, calling for an official ethics panel investigation into the congressman’s sexting activities.
Now a day after his admission, few Democrats are leaping to Weiner’s defense.
“I wish there were some way I could defend him, but I can’t,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, although Reid avoided questions about whether Weiner should resign, telling reporters to “call somebody else.”
Weiner has gone from rising party star to political pariah in the past week, after it was revealed that he’d been sending lewd photos of himself, and engaging in graphic and racy text and Facebook-messaging affairs with six women over the past three years, including one blackjack dealer from Las Vegas who’s alleging the worst: He did everything from flirtatiously text to have phone sex with her in congressional offices, on official equipment, on the country’s time and dime.
It has inspired a chorus of calls from Republicans for Weiner to resign, which he said Monday he would not do.
Although Weiner may be concerned about preserving his political future, Democrats have other concerns.
Last month, the House Democrats’ campaign chief Steve Israel, who represents a Long Island, N.Y., district, said he believed the House was in play — a victory that depends on Democrats winning 24 seats either vacant or held by Republicans. Israel is supporting Pelosi’s decision to call for an inquiry into Weiner’s affairs.
“Ultimately, Anthony and his constituents will make a judgment about his future,” Israel said in a statement. “To remove all remaining doubt about this situation, I agree with leader Pelosi’s request that the House Ethics Committee use its authority to begin an investigation.”
Weiner’s seat has been Democratic for 90 years. His majority is comfortable, but not untouchable: Weiner won about 60 percent of the vote last election.
But this year, House incumbents’ elections aren’t just up to the constituents: In certain states, such as New York, they’re also up to the legislative redistricting process.
New York is set to lose two seats in the postcensus rejiggering that’s also delivering a new representative to Nevada.
Weiner’s district stretches over parts of Queens and Brooklyn, and is in the hot zone for elimination, based on population trends. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out today, while lawmakers have to squeeze out someone, they’re prevented by the Voting Rights Act from disposing of any district where there’s a majority of minority voters. But Weiner doesn’t enjoy that sort of a constituency in his crossover territory, making it a tempting choice for the chopping block, especially since his candidacy comes with such baggage.
Weiner isn’t completely without friends, however. The strongest words of support appear to have come from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Weiner’s longtime mentor and former boss, when the elder statesman was a House representative. Schumer said Weiner “did the right thing” by confessing.