BOISE, Idaho - Senator Larry Craig is reconsidering his decision to resign after his arrest in a Minnesota airport sex sting and may still fight for his Senate seat, his spokesman said last night.
"It's not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign," said Sidney Smith, Craig's spokesman in Idaho's capital.
"We're still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign Sept. 30, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact on whether we're able to stay in the fight - and stay in the Senate," Smith said.
Craig, a Republican who has represented Idaho in Congress for 27 years, announced Saturday that he intends to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30. But since then, he's hired a prominent lawyer to investigate the possibility of reversing his plea, his spokesman said.
Craig was a no-show yesterday as Congress reconvened after a summer break and it wasn't clear whether he'll return at all since deciding to resign over his guilty plea in a sex sting this summer at the Minneapolis airport.
Another spokesman, Dan Whiting in Washington, said yesterday that Craig was expected to spend the week in Idaho as the Senate votes on spending bills for veterans and other programs. Whiting did not rule out Craig's returning to Washington before the end of the month.
A telephone call Craig received last week from Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, urging him to consider fighting for his seat, is affecting Craig's decision to reconsider his resignation, Smith said.
"It was a little more cut and dried a few days ago," Smith said. "There weren't many options. He was basically going to have to step aside. Now, there's a little more to it."
Yesterday, Specter, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Craig's GOP colleagues who pressured him last week to resign should reexamine the facts surrounding his arrest June 11.
"The more people take a look at the situation, there may well be second thoughts," said Specter, a former prosecutor. If Craig had not pleaded guilty in August to a reduced charge and instead demanded a trial, "I believe he would have been exonerated," Specter said.
Craig gave up his senior positions on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Appropriations veterans subcommittee last week, at the request of Senate Republican leaders. The Senate began debating the veterans spending bill yesterday.
Craig came under a steady drumbeat of criticism from Republicans before he announced he would step down Sept. 30.
With Republicans defending nearly twice as many seats as Democrats in 2008, Nevada Senator John Ensign, chairman of the Senate GOP's election effort, said he would resign if he were in Craig's circumstances but stopped short of saying the Idahoan should give up his seat. Craig's third six-year term in the Senate expires in January 2009.
Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, has not named Craig's successor. Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, also a Republican, is considered the front-runner for the job.
Billy Martin, one of Craig's lawyers, said the senator's arrest "raises very serious constitutional questions."
Martin, who represents Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, said Craig "has the right to pursue any and all legal remedies available as he begins the process of trying to clear his good name."
Craig contended throughout last week that he had done nothing wrong and said his only mistake was pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Craig has hired a high-powered crisis management team that includes Martin; communications adviser Judy Smith; Washington attorney Stan Brand, a former general counsel to the US House; and Minneapolis attorney Tom Kelly.
All three of Craig's adopted children said yesterday that they believe their father's assertions he is not gay and did nothing to warrant his arrest.
Jay Craig, 33, said he, his brother, Michael Craig, 38, and his sister, Shae Howell, 36, spoke with their father about the June 11 arrest. "Our conclusion was there was no wrongdoing there," Jay Craig said.