Ed Towns, a 15-term congressman from New York’s 10th Congressional District, and former troubled head of the House’s Oversight and Government Reform Panel, will not be running for reelection this year — but in a deep blue part of New York City, he’s unlikely to be replaced by anyone more scrupulous. NBC New York reports:
Towns, 77, was first elected to the House in 1982 and eventually rose to become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Towns had insisted in recent months that he would seek a 16th term, rebutting repeated suggestions that he was preparing to step aside. The Democrat had been facing a competitive June 26 primary, and his decision to bow out comes just a day before petitions for a spot on the ballot were due.
His exit leaves the race to the two men who’d been running against him, state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and New York City Councilman Charles Barron, an outspoken former Black Panther who unsuccessfully challenged Towns in a bitter 2006 race. . . .
With Towns’s exit from the race, Jeffries is well positioned to take control of the seat, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.. . . .
Towns’s political career has been in decline in recent years. In 2010, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings to replace Towns as the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee – an embarrassing blow that seemed to raise questions about his political effectiveness. . . .
Towns credits the late Rep. Shirley Chisolm for “grooming him for an eventual run for Congress,” according to his official biography. In 1982, he won his first race for the House.
That same year, Towns was videotaped taking $1,300 from undercover police officers posing as businessmen seeking help with federal contracts. Towns later returned the money and was never charged with any wrongdoing, but his critics repeatedly used the incident against Towns throughout his career.
As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform panel, Republicans criticized Towns for not moving more quickly in probing failed mortgage giant Countrywide Financial. It was later revealed that Towns had accepted to two mortgages thought Countrywide’s VIP program, overseen by former CEO Angelo Mozilo. Towns denied knowing he was part of the VIP program.