WASHINGTON -- Since losing re-election last month, Rep. John Sweeney has played hooky in Congress, skipping votes, dodging reporters and avoiding his new make-shift office in a basement cubicle set up for lame ducks.
Sweeney's friends and colleagues Capitol Hill say the Republican from Clifton Park is still stunned about the outcome of the Nov. 7 election when he lost to Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, a close friend of Sweeney's, says the four-term Republican is "frustrated and angry" and feels he was unfairly attacked a week before the election after the Times Union and other newspapers disclosed that police had investigated a domestic dispute between Sweeney and his wife on Dec. 2, 2005.
Sweeney plummeted in pre-election public opinion polls after newspapers disclosed police records documenting the emergency 911 call that his wife Gaia made to police after midnight from their Clifton Park home.
Gaia Sweeney told the responding state trooper that the congressman had grabbed her by the neck and was pushing her around the house, according to a police report obtained by the Times Union. The trooper reported that the congressman had scratches on his face, according to the document.
Sessions, asked why Sweeney was so angry and shocked about his loss, said: "John was disappointed that some frailties in his life were contributing issues to his defeat." He said Sweeney has been ill and his blood pressure had risen.............................
Sweeney and his staff have ignored dozens of requests for an interview and the congressman has evaded reporters off the House floor.
Sessions said Sweeney told him Friday afternoon he wasn't going to talk to a reporter.
"He feels that he's gotten the (expletive deleted) kicked out of him enough," Sessions said.
Sessions said Sweeney was too busy to vote or talk to a reporter
Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-East Amherst, who narrowly won re-election, said Sweeney had "one of the safest seats in the Northeast" but lost because the campaign "got personal."
"The campaign became a referendum on John Sweeney," Reynolds said. "I think he was off stride with his message." Reynolds said the distraction over the 911 call prevented Sweeney from finishing the campaign with the message that he would create jobs and cut taxes.
"It was a perfect storm to take out a well-liked incumbent in a safe seat," he said.
Rep. Michael R. McNulty, D-Green Island, who said he helped fellow Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, a family friend, in her successful campaign to defeat Sweeney, said Sweeney lost because she was an "outstanding candidate," who is "intellectually brilliant, politically smart and has a work ethic that won't quit.".
During the campaign, Sweeney had loudly dismissed the seriousness of Gillibrand's challenge, violating one of the golden rules of politics.
"One way to ensure that you continue to win is to take every opponent seriously, even a minor candidate," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. "Why any Republican in New York would think that he or she was guaranteed re-election in the state, is beyond comprehension."