Rep. Eric Massa, a freshman Democrat from New York, said Wednesday that he will not seek a second term after a recurrence of cancer late last year, dismissing blog reports that he had harassed a staffer.
Massa, 50, was stricken with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1996. He underwent aggressive treatment and stayed on as an aide to retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a presidential candidate in 2004.
He was elected in 2008, defeating Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl in a district long dominated by Republicans.
Massa said during a two-minute conference call with reporters that his cancer returned in December.
"I was briefly hospitalized, kept it private between myself and my immediate family," he said. "It was a very intense and personal experience, especially in light of having gone through this before.
"I'm a very salty guy, a very direct guy and I run at about 100 miles per hour, and my doctors have made it clear to me that I can no longer do that," the retired Navy commander said.
He said he was announcing his decision now to give potential contenders time to run, and he criticized blog reports about harassment charges leading to his retirement.
"Those kinds of articles, unsubstantiated without fact or backing, are a symptom of what's wrong with this city and it's why so many have looked at the absolute gridlock in Washington, the intense partisanship without rational thought and decided, like I, I do not have the life energy to fight all the battles all the time."
He took no questions after the statement, during which he acknowledged using "salty language" in his inner office and apologizing "where it's appropriate."
The district is viewed as vulnerable in the coming midterm election. Massa voted against the House version of President Barack Obama's health care bill in November and was among the House members seen as critical to passage of the latest version.
The 29th district in the southwestern corner of New York has been dominated by Republicans since the party's founding in 1854. It's a largely agricultural district the size of Connecticut where registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 53,000 in 2008, when Massa wrested the seat from Randy Kuhl. It wasn't until more than two weeks after the election that Kuhl conceded.
A fiscal conservative and a former Republican, Massa spent 24 years in the Navy, running up tours of combat in Beirut, the Persian Gulf War and Bosnia-Kosovo.
Massa lost to Kuhl by just over 6,000 votes in his first run for office in 2006.
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