Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) released a statement late Monday arguing his innocence and — contrary to the wishes of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — vowed not to resign his House seat.
Renzi was indicted Friday on 35 counts of extortion, money laundering and conspiracy relating to his efforts to get the federal government to buy land from his business partner, prompting Boehner and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) to all but call for Renzi to step down.
“I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent,” Renzi said in his statement. “My legal team of Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer will handle these legal issues while I continue to serve my constituents.”
Renzi announced last summer that he would not run for re-election this year. In the wake of Friday’s indictment, Democrats in Arizona have been calling for Renzi to resign his seat in advance of May 3 so that a special election can be held and the winner of that contest can take office before the end of the year. If Renzi resigns after May 3, the seat will remain vacant until the winner of the November general election takes office in January 2009.
The sprawling 1st district in northern Arizona is expected to be a major political battleground this year.
— David M. Drucker