Mark Souder Resigns on Top Aide's Wedding Day
By Mary Ann Akers
Friday's official resignation of now-former congressman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) was a mere blip on Congress's radar. But to the Indiana congressman's chief of staff, Renee Howell, Souder's scandalous demise was more like a huge blotch. On her wedding day.
In an extreme case of bad timing, Souder's revelation Tuesday that he had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a part-time staffer on his payroll came as Howell was in the throes of last-minute wedding preparations. Suddenly, the busy bride found herself planning the happiest day of her life and the worst day of her career simultaneously.
"The timing couldn't possibly have been worse, unless maybe it had come during her honeymoon," said Howell's good friend Jason Roe, a GOP political consultant who flew with his wife and baby from San Diego to attend Friday evening's wedding at a Washington hotel.
Howell has said she was "shocked" and "disappointed" to learn that her boss of more than eight years -- a pudgy, bespectacled Christian conservative whose image more belies that of chairman of the House Nerd Caucus than a ladies man -- was cheating on his wife for years with a district staffer named Tracy Jackson.
After receiving anonymous tips about Souder's extramarital dalliance, Howell confronted the congressman last Wednesday. He confessed and she immediately took news of the inner-office romance to House GOP leaders. That set in motion Souder's public admission in which he said he had "sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."
The bride apparently told some of her wedding guests who gathered Thursday night for cocktails at the Republicans' Capitol Hill Club that Souder is not exactly welcome anymore at her wedding. She is marrying Richard Hudson, chief of staff to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.).
"He is going home to Indiana, which is the appropriate thing to do," Roe said by telephone, adding, "If I'm Mark Souder, after putting my family through what he just did, the last place I'm going is a wedding."
Howell and the rest of Souder's staff remain on the congressional payroll, possibly through November. (Jackson, the congressman's paramour, had already stopped working for him before the scandal exploded publicly.) Rather than holding a special election this summer to determine who will fill the remainder of Souder's term, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is leaning toward letting the an election until November, when the general is scheduled.
Therefore, Roe said, Howell "might effectively be the congressman for the remainder of his term - without having the inconvenience of voting."
Howell, he said, is beaming like any other bride on this day and that the Souder debacle isn't going to ruin anybody's good time at the wedding, especially the bride's.
"If anything, it'll be something we'll be joking about at the reception," said Roe. "And she'll have a great story to tell her children and grandchildren some day."
Mary Ann Akers
May 21, 2010; 3:14 PM ET
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