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New Congressman/Homo Scandal

VIRGINIA BEACH – U.S. Rep. “Big Ed” Schrock abruptly announced his retirement late Monday, citing unspecified allegations that “called into question my ability to represent the citizens of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.”

The two-term Republican did not answer questions or address the allegations.

A Washington-based activist claimed on his Web site that Schrock engaged in homosexual activity, but offered no evidence. Schrock has refused to confirm or deny the allegations for two weeks.

“After much thought and prayer, I have come to the realization that these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region,” he said in a written statement. “Therefore, as of today, I am stepping aside and will no longer be the Republican nominee for Congress in Virginia’s Second Congressional District.”

The new candidate must be submitted to the state Board of Elections by Friday. He or she will face Democratic challenger David Ashe.

Schrock will retire in January, when a new Congress is seated.

At least one GOP-elected leader, State Del. Thelma Drake of Norfolk, has stated her desire for the seat.

Republicans were at turns stunned, angered and supportive after the news broke.

“It’s like the bombshell,” said Pamela Brown, a Norfolk Republican who heard the news at her party’s national convention in New York City. “The rules for elected officials are different from the rest of us.”

Schrock served two terms in Congress, focusing his efforts on military and conservative issues.

His sprawling Second District includes all of Virginia Beach, and parts of Norfolk, Hampton and the Eastern Shore. It is a politically conservative district that includes several military bases and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Allegations about Schrock, 63, emerged two weeks ago, on Aug. 19, when a Web site called posted claims that Schrock engaged in homosexual activity. Schrock is married and has an adult son.

Michael Rogers, the Web site publisher, accused Schrock of being a hypocrite for opposing gay-rights issues.

The Web site – a one-man operation out of Washington that focuses on gay issues – has a history of “outing” gay congressional staff members. The site did not offer any proof of its allegation that Schrock engaged in homosexual activity.

The Web site urged readers to write to Schrock and “let this congressional hypocrite know how you feel.”

Rogers said Schrock’s positions on gays in the military and a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage hurt the gay community.

“People like him should not be in government,” said Rogers, who is openly gay. “People need to know it.”

While Schrock repeatedly declined to comment on the accusations, some gay-oriented message boards on the Internet filled with discussions of the allegations. Still, no one offered proof.

Locally, a Web site called Virginia News Source reprinted the claims and challenged Schrock to respond to them, but offered no corroboration itself. The site is operated by former Virginia Beach Councilman Robert Dean and Morris Rowe, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Owen Pickett.

No mainstream newspapers, television stations or Web sites published the allegations.

As the rumors continued to build, local Republicans prepared for the worst.

Michael L. Ball, 2nd District Republican chairman, said he was disappointed the allegations drove Schrock to retire, but added his party would unite behind a new candidate.

In addition to Drake, Republican activists have mentioned state Sens. Kenneth W. Stolle and Frank Wagner as possible candidates. Neither could be reached for comment Monday.

More candidates could emerge. Republicans hold almost all elected positions in Virginia Beach. “We have a very deep bench,” said state Del. Terrie Suit, R-Virginia Beach.

Ashe, 36, is a lawyer and former Marine who recently returned from duty in Iraq. He said he was shocked by the news but declined to comment on the rumors.

“This campaign has always been about the issues,” he said. “The other parts of the country can take a lesson from the way we do things in Virginia.”

A retired Navy captain, Schrock regularly reminded colleagues that his district is home to the nation’s largest naval installation, Norfolk Naval Station.

Most of his legislative attention went to military matters. He won a seat on the House Armed Services Committee and the Government Reform Committee, which conducts hearings on homeland security and reorganizing the defense bureaucracy.

Schrock was a reliable supporter of the Bush administration, sticking with the president even on the issue of military base closings. While other local congressmen voted earlier this year to delay 2005 base closings until 2007, Schrock said the closings should proceed.

Schrock was first elected in 2000, after the retirement of long-time Democratic Rep. Pickett.

He established himself as a freshman lawmaker to watch. His Republican colleagues elected him president of the House GOP freshman class in 2001, and he later founded the House Navy/Marine Corps caucus.

But like virtually all junior House members, Schrock had no legislative monument. In four years, he was chief sponsor of 10 bills, none of which is likely to be long-remembered.

Schrock consistently opposed legislation favored by gays. As a candidate in 2000, he opposed President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred the military from asking service members their sexual orientation. Schrock said that having gays in the military would hurt discipline.

“You’re in the showers with them, you’re in the bunk room with them, you’re in staterooms with them,” Schrock said. “You just hope no harm would come by folks who are of that persuasion. It’s a discipline thing.”

He also was among more than 100 co-sponsors of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.

U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott, a Newport News Democrat, issued a statement saying Schrock had served “with distinction.” He praised Schrock’s bipartisanship.

“We have together worked to support the military, NASA-Langley, shipbuilding and many other issues important to the people of this region,” Scott said.

Reaction from local Republicans was mixed.

Drake said she and other Republicans had heard rumors about Schrock, but she did not want Schrock to step down. “My position was that Ed should stay and fight, but I didn’t have all the facts,” she said.

If the allegations are true, Drake said, they are startling. “This is not the Ed Schrock that I know,” she said.

Other Republicans expressed similar disbelief. State Del. Robert Tata, a Beach Republican, said Schrock’s decision was likely the wise choice. “I can’t see putting his family through this kind of torture,” Tata said.

News of Schrock’s retirement spread quickly through Virginia Republicans visiting New York for their convention.

State Del. John Welch, R-Virginia Beach, said the congressman’s refusal to comment on the allegations increased the pressure. “It’s unfortunate that it’s lingered so long,” he said.

Others were angered by the allegations. “In this Web-site age, anyone can pretty much post anything,” said Suit. “It’s gone too far.”

After learning the news, Bev Graber of Norfolk sat in her hotel lobby and wept. “My heart is sad,” she said. “Many people make mistakes in their lives. If this is true … I don’t know. He’s just a wonderful person.”

Schrock’s office offered only a written statement, and declined to comment further.

“Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all of the people who have entrusted me to be their representative and have shown unwavering support,” he said. “Together, we have accomplished so much for the people of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.

“Although I am retiring from Congress, I still look forward to working within our community to make it stronger and an even better place to live and work.”



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