Tom Reynolds Expected To Announce Retirement On Thursday

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) has scheduled a noon press conference on Thursday, and GOP insiders say the veteran lawmaker is going to announce his retirement from Congress at that time, effective at the end of this year.

Reynolds is now the 29th House Republican to retire, and it puts another winnable seat in play for Democrats.

Reynolds has been hammered in recent weeks over an accounting scandal at the National Republican Congressional Committee, an episode that apparently began when he was chairing the committee. The NRCC believes that its former treasurer, Christopher J. Ward, may have embezzled several hundred thousand dollars beginning in 2003, Reynolds' first year as chairman. Ward, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing at this time, is the focus of a criminal probe by the FBI, and it is believed that he may have diverted as much as $1 million from the NRCC and other GOP campaigns and PACs that he was affiliated with.

Reynolds, who barely survived a tough re-election battle last cycle, was first elected to the House in 1998 after  more than two decades as a county and state elected official in New York, rising to the post of Republican leader in the New York State Assembly. Given a prized seat on the Rules Committee as a freshman, Reynolds was admired within the GOP Conference for his political acumen and judgement. He was even seen by many as a potential replacement for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

But Reynolds' reputation suffered a huge blow among his fellow GOP lawmakers when Republicans lost control of the House during his second term at the NRCC, and the accounting scandal at the committee has further damaged his standing.

Reynolds' departure would be a blow to Empire State Republicans, who already face a difficult cycle. Rep. James Walsh (R-N.Y.) has already announced he will be retiring at the end of this year.

Democratic candidate John Powers, a schoolteacher and IraqWar veteran, is already running for the 26th District seat now being vacated by Reynolds, although other Democrats may get into the race now that Reynolds is stepping down.