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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 12:40 GMT
Profile: Gary Condit
Congressman Gary Condit is followed by the media when leaving his house
Scandals have made Mr Condit known internationally
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By Katty Kay in Washington

Until last year Gary Condit was among California's most secure politicians.

Few people had heard about him outside the state, because the 53-year-old Democrat is not a headline grabber by nature.

Gary Condit was Mr June on the Congressional calendar, "Hunks of the House"

In Washington he preferred to work behind the scenes, making back-room political deals.

He was rarely heard speaking on the floor of the House and avoided publicity.

Mr Condit is a man who combined sharp political instincts with old-fashioned charm to create an almost flawless political career.

How long ago that must seem.

Internationally famous

A major sex scandal, a string of highly publicised adulterous affairs and run-ins with the FBI and police have made Mr Condit internationally famous.

Last summer every American with a television (and there are very few exceptions) was treated to daily pictures of the silver-haired, dapper man at the centre of the nation's biggest news story.

The congressman has a penchant for shiny golden ties, immaculately pressed blue shirts and carefully coiffed hair.

His favourite toy, a Harley Davidson, befits his status as Congress pin-up - he was Mr June on the Congressional calendar, "Hunks of the House".

His recent notoriety does not appear to have affected his appearance.

Despite months of scandal and quite a bit of internal opposition, Mr Condit decided to try to become, for the seventh time, the Democratic candidate for Congress representing California's 18th district.

But the district's voters seem to have rejected his attempts to portray himself as the victim of unfair media vilification.

Serial adulterer

The investigation into the disappearance of Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old intern, unearthed a seedy sex life, which makes Mr Condit look like a serial adulterer with a taste for younger women.

Chandra Levy
Mr Condit reportedly admitted to having an affair with Miss Levy
A Pentecostal minister claimed that his 18-year-old daughter had a two-year affair with Mr Condit, and there are allegations the young woman may even have had his child.

A 39-year-old airline stewardess, Anne Marie Smith, said she was having an affair with the congressman until last May, at the very same time that he and Miss Levy were reportedly involved with each other.

Ms Smith said that after finding neckties tied together under his bed she became wary of Mr Condit's sexual tastes.

Constituency shocked

His constituents in California were shocked by the revelations coming out of Washington DC, on the other side of the country.

Back in his home district, Mr Condit was described by a local reporter as a politician whom people like, trust and know.

He sends flowers to constituents' funerals, he is a good listener, and he once unblocked a resident's drain in the middle of the night.

His constituents felt they knew him personally.

"Gary used to hold sidewalk chats. He'd put a card table out in front of a grocery store and people would come up and talk to him. He'd listen and they'd know he cared," said Paul Warda, a long-time friend and Mr Condit's former boss.

"He's fair-minded and very objective and he would always give people the benefit of a doubt."

Professional reputation hurt

In Washington, Mr Condit's reputation has plummeted, personally and professionally.

Many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill feel that he lied to them when he denied having an affair with Miss Levy.

At least one senior lawmaker has called on him to resign.

Mr Condit is not a suspect in Miss Levy's disappearance, which is still being treated as a missing persons case, not a murder case, but his apparent unwillingness to co-operate with the police has left many people disappointed in him.

As former President Bill Clinton found out, it is not the affair, but the cover-up that can ruin a politician's career.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Americas
California Democrats reject Condit
18 Jul 01 | Americas
Net clues sought in intern hunt
17 Jul 01 | Americas
Police step up missing intern search
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Condit passes lie detector test
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Hometown puzzles over intern case
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Search for missing intern expands
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Mystery overwhelms US airwaves
11 Jul 01 | Americas
Congressman under the spotlight
11 Jul 01 | Americas
Chandra Levy: Accusation and denial
09 Jul 01 | Americas
Intern's parents 'doubt congressman'
22 Jun 01 | Americas
Missing intern link to congressman
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