D-Day for scandal-hit congressman

The political fate of Gary Condit, the American congressman who dominated headlines last summer, may be decided today.

The political fate of Gary Condit, the American congressman who dominated headlines last summer, may be decided today.

Democratic party members in the Californian politician’s home area go to the polls in a primary election to decide if Mr Condit should be the party’s candidate for the constituency he has represented for more than 20 years.

Mr Condit came into the spotlight over his reported affair with Chandra Levy, the Washington intern who disappeared at the beginning of May 2001 and remains missing.

He dodged questions about whether or not they were romantically involved before her disappearance, and when he eventually went on national television would only say ‘‘I am human’’ and refused to acknowledge an affair.

Mr Condit, a right-wing Democrat, has lost all official backing of his local Democratic party and state officials have redrawn his district to bring in working-class areas which would vote for a left-wing member of the party.

His showing in the opinion polls is poor and his one-time close ally, Californian governor Gray Davis, has refused to offer his vital endorsement.

The congressman has also spent much of his campaign war-chest, vital in American electioneering, on expensive Washington lawyers, a public relations firm and a lie-detector test.

And he also faced a string of embarrassments in the run-up to his election, including having to pay a fee to get on the ballot because he could not gain enough signatures, and being caught by his local paper campaigning in the wrong district.

Mr Condit managed to keep his place on the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives despite calls for his removal by some Congressmen, but it cropped him out of pictures on its web site showing members visiting the remains of the World Trade Centre.

The politician has been accused of labouring under the illusion he is running against the media he blames for his complete loss of support, not political opponents.

Last week he said: ‘‘The media had created a tremendous amount of negativity for me.

‘‘I mean, I usually win by, like, 70% of the vote. And they peeled off a lot of support just, you know, on hearsay, rumours, innuendo and so on and so forth.’’

Despite being followed by opponents shouting ‘‘We have not forgotten, Gary Condit’s rotten’’, he has refused to lose heart.

He told supporters: ‘‘You elect Gary Condit, you will rock this nation.’’

And he has claimed he would be revered by his Congressional colleagues if he wins the primary and defeats the Republicans in the November poll, saying: ‘‘You become the champion of champions.’’

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