Vance Wilkins has stepped down as Speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates.
His resignation ends a swift and dramatic fall from the most powerful legislative position in Virginia.
It comes after he admitted paying at least 100-thousand dollars in hush money to a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.
In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, Wilkins said: I don't blame anyone for my troubles. Most of them I brought upon myself.
But times have changed, and the rules have changed and what was accepted in the era in which I was raised is strictly off-limits today. I didn't change with the times, and if I have offended anyone I am truly sorry and I apologize."
Wilkins said he felt he could have held onto his position at least until next January, but he felt it was in his party's best interest to resign as speaker now.
Wilkins said yesterday he feels abandoned by Republicans.
He spoke by phone with reporters immediately after announcing his resignation.
Meghan Muldoon was there and she has more on what he said led him to his decision.
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[IN Q=The 65-year-old lawmaker who]
[SUPER=03-Richmond/File Tape; :00]
[OUT Q=MM, News 7, Richmond]
(( The 65-year-old lawmaker who is credited with building the first Republican majority (put pre-pro #1 starting h
ere) in the House of Delegates said he "feels abandoned by the caucus."
(pre-pro #2 here) He also stated "I'm not sure I want to be the leader of people who attack that quickly."
House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith defended House Republicans.
[IN Q=I would have to ask who abandoned who?]
[OUT Q=and the eavesdropping.]
Wilkins has been under increasing pressure to resign since allegations surfaced that he paid one hundred thousand dollars to settle a sexual harassment suit.
Griffith says that the sexual harassment allegations coming on the tail of the Speaker's mishandling of the eavesdropping scandal led the caucus to believe Wilkins couldn't lead anymore.
[IN Q=on two occasions]
[OUT Q=they ultimately reached.]
The Speaker who represents Amherst said he still hasn't made a decision on whether he'll also abandon his delegate seat.
But that for now, he's taking a few days off.
Delegate Lacey Putney of Bedford will become interim Speaker until a permanent successor is named.
As to who the new Speaker might be, Wilkins said he didn't "want to get into it" and added that recommending somebody for the position "might do" them "more harm than good."
[IN Q=It is a very sad day for the]
[OUT Q=never overlook that.]))
[TAPE#=02-21 TC 23:05:21]
[GRAPHIC=Vance Wilkins OTS]
In Wilkins' home base of Amherst County, the reaction was one of surprise mixed with some sadness.
Though many expected Wilkins to step down eventually, they were surprised at how quickly the speaker fell from power.
[SUPER=07-Oliver Page; :00]
[SUPER=07-Sally Cope; : 24]
[SUPER=07-Dale Johnson; :41]
[OUT Q=move on with your life.]
Wilkins' resignation is not just a blow to the republican party or to Amherst County... it also means rural Virginia is losing a powerful voice in state government.
Fellow Republican Delegate Preston Bryant says Wilkins' had no choice but to resign.
Bryant worked as an aide to Wilkins' for two years in the early nineties.
The Lynchburg Delegate says regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, Wilkins' decision to step down was in the best interest of the Republican party.
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[IN Q=Obviously on the heels]
((DEL. PRESTON BRYANT: OBVIOUSLY ON THE HEELS OF THE EAVES DROPPING INCIDENT, ON THE HEELS OF THE SPEAKER'S PROBLEMS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS BEEN FRUSTRATED AND DISTRACTED. WE'RE ANXIOUS TO GET IT BEHIND US AND I THINK WE'LL MOVE ON IN SHORT ORDER AND GET IT BEHIND US.))
[OUT Q=get it behind us---Double Out]
As to whether Wilkins' should resign altogether from the House of Delegates, Bryant says Wilkins' should first meet with his constituents and then make that decision.
In national news this morning--
Seven people are dead after a car bomb exploded outside the U-S Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
At least 45 people were injured.
Authorities say the car loaded with bombs crashed into a police kiosk at the consulate and exploded.
At least a dozen cars were burned.
Last month, a suicide bomb attack outside a hotel in Karachi killed 13 people.
Today at their meeting in Dallas, Catholic bishops are expected to vote on a new policy for sexually abusive priests.
They worked late into the night on the document, which several bishops say is moving closer to a zero tolerance policy for clerics who abuse children.
The current charter allows TWO violations.
Yesterday, church leaders heard more stories from abuse victims.
Bringing more planes and lower fares to the Roanoke Regional Airport has long been a goal of local leaders.
[VO-NAT Tape 02:12 TC 1:15:24]
Later today, Roanoke Valley officials will lay out a new plan to make that happen.
A news conference has been scheduled for early this afternoon. One official says the meeting will outline a "new strategy to attract competitive air service."
Local leaders have reportedly assembled a team that includes former Virginia Commerce Secretary Barry DuVal.
The 14-year old suspect in Roanoke County's tire fire faces two felony arson charges.
The case against him was upgraded today from misdemeanor counts.
In addition to the tire fire, the boy is charged with setting a brush fire near Tony Dow's home on Route 220.
Dow says the boy and his friends have subjected him and his wife to racial abuse almost since the day they moved in last Summer.
The kids invaded the home, Dow says, and helped themselves to everything ...including the phone.
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[IN Q=A big ole]
((TONY DOW/ROANOKE CO. HOMEOWNER; A BIG OLD $800 TELEPHONE BILL, COMING IN MY HOUSE URINATING, USING THE BATHROOM, NOT USING THE BATHROOMS GOING TO THE BATHROOM ALL OVER THE HOUSE, EATING MY FOOD, TEARING UP MY HOUSE.))
[SUPER=01-Tony Dow/Roanoke Co. Homeowner]
[OUT Q=tearing up my house.]
On April 14- -about three weeks after the tires on Willie Keeling's property were set ablaze- -Tony Dow arrived home to find several boys emerging from his home.
One of them was carrying a gas can, Dow says. They set fire in the woods near Dow's home. He didn't know the boys by name, but neighbors helped identify them and one was arrested.
A fire in Rockbridge County has burned nearly 500 acres of wilderness, and the fire is not out yet.
A lightning strike ignited the blaze in the James River Face Wilderness on June 5th.
Because of safety concerns, forestry officials say they're trying to contain the blaze with fire lines and backburns instead of sending in crews to battle the flames.
10 and a half miles of the Appalachian Trail and the Wilderness area are closed because of the fire.
Officials say they hope to have the fire under control by next Tuesday.
(Kimberly tosses to bump)
Vance Wilkins has served in the General Assembly since 1978, most of that time in the minority.
But in the 1990s, he helped to engineer the Republican resurgence that gave the GOP control of the House of Delegates.
[IN Q=Just knew that I would]
[OUT Q=a deciding factor.]
In November 1999, House Republicans gave Wilkins the nod over northern Virginia Delegate Jack Rust...
And in January, he was sworn as Speaker of the House.
[NAT SOT OF SWEARING IN 01:12:38]
[IN Q=I S. Vance ]
((I S. VANCE WILKINS JUNIOR))
[OUT Q=Vance Wilkins Junior]
With a first ever Republican majority in the House of Delegates, Wilkins became the first Republican to serve as Speaker.
[IN Q=I guess this is some sense of awe.]
[OUT Q=the responsibility that goes with it.]
Last night, the first Republican to serve as Speaker is also the first Virginia speaker ever pressured to step aside.
Weary firefighters continue battling a more than 20- mile- long blaze in the foothills of Colorado.
They've been frustrated by rugged terrain, but are getting relief from cooler weather.
The blaze has forced extensive evacuations.
About 54- hundred people are still not able to return to their homes.
The fire is about 35 miles away from the city.
(Kim toss to Steve)
A Martinsville Police Officer will not be criminally charged for hitting a child on a bicycle with his patrol car.
It happened on May 30th, when Officer Robert Haynes decided to check on a fellow officer who had responded to a domestic abuse call.
The boy suffered a concussion and some bruises.
Police say an independent investigation by state police trained in accident reconstruction determined the officer was not speeding.
Good news for the Salem School System..
All of the city's schools will receive the state's "fully accredited" rating, because of their success with the Standards of Learning tests.
This year Salem *High* School joined the city's other schools in reaching the required 70-percent "pass rate" in core academic areas.
School officials say it took a team effort to reach the goal..
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((WAYNE TRIPP/SALEM SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT; OUR TEACHERS OUR GUIDANCE COUNSELORS OUR ADMINISTRATORS OUR LIBRARIANS EVERYBODY INVOLVED, I THINK WORKED VERY HARD MADE MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS AND MOST ESPECIALLY WE WOULD WANT TO THANK THE STUDENTS))
[SUPER=01-Wayne Tripp/Salem School Superintendent]
[OUT Q="want to thank the students"]
Salem is ahead of the Standards of Learning schedule..
All Virginia school systems must be fully accredited by 2007.