California Rep. Katie Hill resigns amid ethics probe
Washington: Freshman Rep. Katie Hill, a rising Democratic star in the House, announced her resignation Sunday amid an ethics probe, saying explicit private photos of her with a campaign staffer had been "weaponized" by her husband and political operatives.
The California Democrat, 32, had been hand-picked for a coveted leadership seat.
But in recent days, compromising photos of Hill and purported text messages from her to a campaign staffer surfaced online in a right-wing publication and a British tabloid.
The House ethics committee also had launched an investigation into whether Hill had an inappropriate relationship with an aide in her congressional office, which is prohibited under House rules.
Hill, one of the few openly bisexual women in Congress, has denied that and vowed to fight a "smear" campaign waged by a husband she called abusive. But her relationship with the campaign aide became a concern for House Democrats who have made equality in the workplace a particular priority.
On Sunday, after apologising for the relationship with a subordinate, Hill announced she was stepping aside.
"It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress," she wrote in a statement released Sunday.
"Having private photos of personal moments weaponised against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy. It's also illegal, and we are currently pursuing all of our available legal options," she added.
"However, I know that as long as I am in Congress, we'll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt."
Hill's statement provided no details on that or when she would step down. Hill's office and campaign provided no additional public comment.
Her abrupt fall came after a blazing rise in which she won the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County, part of a rout that saw GOP House members driven out of their seats in Southern California.
Hill was elected by 9 percentage points last year, ousting two-term Republican Rep. Stephen Knight and capturing the district for her party for the first time since 1990. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried the district in 2016 by 7 points.
Hill's campaign had raised a healthy USD 2.2 million so far this year, putting her on track for a strong reelection bid.
Citing the more than 4-in-10 district voters from minority groups, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who heads House Democrats' campaign committee, said there was "no doubt" her party would hold the district next year.
But Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the House GOP campaign arm, said Republicans "look forward to winning back this seat."
Nationally, Hill was part of the wave that flipped the House to Democratic control.