State Sen. Robert Regola III ended his re-election campaign yesterday, quitting the race one month after a jury acquitted him of perjury and gun charges in the suicide of a teenage neighbor.
Mr. Regola, a Republican from Hempfield, said he thought he could win a second four-year term but was driven from the campaign by the media.
"Despite my acquittal, it is easy to see that voters can have doubts about my character, given what the media unfairly wrote about me," Mr. Regola said in a statement. "Their tabloid-like reporting has tarnished my reputation in this community and made it more difficult to seek re-election."
Mr. Regola, 46, also said he was worried about the tactics Democrats would use this fall.
"I am unwilling to put my family, friends and supporters through the type of negative campaign that my opponent would likely conduct," he said.
Anthony Bompiani, the Democrat seeking the seat held by Mr. Regola, declined to respond to Mr. Regola's charge. Dr. Bompiani, a chiropractor and former Hempfield school board member, said he would publicly discuss the election today.
As many as 260 Republican committee members in the 39th Senatorial District will meet Saturday morning in Greensburg to choose a replacement for Mr. Regola, said George Dunbar, Republican chairman of Westmoreland County.
Mr. Dunbar said he has asked Westmoreland County Commissioner Kim Ward to be the GOP's Senate candidate.
"I urged her to consider it, and she said she would. She just came off an election last year, so she wants to talk to her family," Mr. Dunbar said.
Under state election rules, Westmoreland Republicans must nominate their replacement candidate by Aug. 21.
Mr. Dunbar met yesterday with Mr. Regola before the senator quit the race. Mr. Dunbar said he was aware of various polls that showed Mr. Regola trailing Dr. Bompiani, but he did not consider them especially significant, given that the election is almost three months away.
"The numbers were not insurmountable," Mr. Dunbar said. "But Senator Regola outlined his reasons for withdrawing, and I did not try to dissuade him."
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said he also spoke to Mr. Regola before he quit the race.
"He called me for counsel. It was probably the toughest conversation I've had with anyone. I will certainly miss him in the Republican caucus," Mr. Scarnati said.
After his acquittal, Mr. Regola said John Peck, the Democratic district attorney of Westmoreland County, had prosecuted him for political reasons. Mr. Peck replied that he brought charges against the senator based on evidence state police uncovered in the shooting death of Louis Farrell, a 14-year-old boy who lived next door to the senator.
The coroner ruled that Louis shot himself to death with Mr. Regola's 9 mm pistol in July 2006.
Mr. Peck initially said no crime had occurred but later changed his mind. He prosecuted Mr. Regola for perjury, providing a firearm to a minor, reckless endangerment and three counts of false swearing.
The essence of the prosecution's case was that Mr. Regola gave the pistol to his own teenage son, Bobby, who showed it to friends. Louis then purportedly took the handgun while he was caring for the Regolas' dogs and used it to kill himself.
After a jury found Mr. Regola not guilty of all charges, the Farrell family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him. The Farrells say they doubt that Louis killed himself.
Mr. Regola said he thought of Louis Farrell as a son. But, he said, he has been unable to reach out to the Farrells because of tactics used by their lawyer, Jon Perry.
"The attorney they hired has attempted to denigrate me in the press by misrepresenting my actions and, most of the time, outright lying about the facts of the case," Mr. Regola said.
Mr. Perry had a tart response: "If there's any distortion of the facts, I would suggest it's by the senator, who has a fanciful or inaccurate recollection of what actually occurred."
Even if Republicans lose Mr. Regola's seat, they probably will maintain control of the Senate. They outnumber Democrats, 29-21.
Staff writer Tom Barnes contributed. Milan Simonich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1956.