Representative Katie Hill, Democrat of California, said on Sunday that she would resign after less than 10 months in office as she faced a House ethics investigation into allegations that she had a sexual relationship with a member of her congressional staff, a violation of House rules.
The freshman representative, who had been seen as a rising star in the caucus, said she made the decision “with a broken heart” just days after the House ethics committee announced its inquiry. She had denied a relationship with a congressional staff member, but had acknowledged a separate relationship with a member of her campaign team, which is not covered under House rules.
“For the mistakes made along the way and the people who have been hurt, I am so sorry, and I am learning,” Ms. Hill said in a statement. “I am not a perfect person and never pretended to be. It’s one of the things that made my race so special.”
Stepping down, she said, was the “best thing for my constituents, my community and our country.” It was unclear when her resignation, which was first reported by Politico, would go into effect.
Ms. Hill, 32, first said she had no intention of resigning last week, after the conservative news site RedState published reports that she had been intimately involved with her legislative director, and separately in a three-way sexual relationship with a young campaign aide and her husband, whom she is divorcing.
In a letter to constituents on Wednesday, the day the ethics committee announced its investigation, Ms. Hill had pledged to “fully and proactively” cooperate with the inquiry and had acknowledged that the relationship with the campaign aide was “inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment.”
Ms. Hill also faced the online publication of multiple nude photographs of her, which she said had been done without her permission. She said she knew that if she remained in Congress, “we’ll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt.”
“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives,” she said in a statement. Ms. Hill had previously accused her husband, Kenny Heslep, and Republican operatives of “a smear campaign” against her.
She said she planned to continue pursuing legal action for the publication of “private photos of personal moments” without her consent. Lawyers for Ms. Hill had sent a cease-and-desist letter to The Daily Mail, after the website published nude photos said to be of Ms. Hill.
“Now, my fight is going to be to defeat this type of exploitation that so many women are victims to and which will keep countless women and girls from running for office or entering public light,” Ms. Hill said.
For a freshman, she had played a relatively prominent role in the House Democratic caucus. She was chosen as one of the representatives for the freshman class in House leadership, and served as vice chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, an unusually high-ranking position for a freshman on one of the panels overseeing the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday evening that Ms. Hill had come to Washington and “made a great contribution as a leader of the freshman class.”
“She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a member untenable,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement. “We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”
While Ms. Hill faced some pressure to resign, others had come to her defense, denouncing the publication of the explicit images as “revenge porn,” which is illegal under California law. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was among those who defended her, noting that “who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?”
Ms. Hill, who campaigned to serve as the first openly bisexual congresswoman from California, unseated a Republican, Steve Knight, and helped secure the House’s majority. Her Los Angeles County district includes parts of the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys, and was once seen as reliably conservative.
Dave Wasserman, an editor with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said on Twitter that Ms. Hill’s resignation would make the district more competitive in 2020, but still favoring Democrats.
Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the chairwoman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said she had spoken with Ms. Hill on Sunday night and wished her well, calling her “a dedicated servant who brought an important perspective to our caucus.”
Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the Republican counterpart, made no mention of Ms. Hill by name in a statement — but declared that the Republican campaign arm would “look forward to winning back this seat.”
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.