Election 2020

Pennsylvania GOP Congressional Candidate Plagued By Sex Scandal, Messy Divorce

Shannon Edwards poses for a photo at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Feb. 21, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Edwards, whose affair with a married eight-term Pennsylvania congressman led to his resignation, announced in a statement that she is seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Pittsburgh U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Shannon Edwards is a political candidate with an agenda.

“We’re in the midst of a national mental health crisis, and this feels like a natural progression for me,” Edwards said when she announced her campaign on the steps of the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Pittsburghers deserve an active and dedicated voice in Washington – someone who will not only enact laws but actively write laws.”

Shannon Edwards is also a Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 14th congressional district, with a history that includes an affair with a former congressman and a temporary personal protection order issued against her, because her husband said she’d repeatedly threatened murder.

Politics first: Edwards knows all things being equal defeating incumbent Rep. Mike Doyle iwon’t be easy. In fact, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she likes the Democrat.

“This is an entrenched Democratic district since 1953, and I hold values from both sides of the aisle,” she said. “I think the notion of Republican values and Democratic values is something that tears us apart as a nation, and I’m tired of it.”

“In our current sociopolitical climate, people are used to checking a box – pro-life, pro-choice. I am pro-life span, not just pro-birth. I want to talk about healthcare,” Edwards added.

“Our jails have become our new mental health asylums,” she said. “It costs three times as much to keep a mentally ill inmate in a jail or prison than a non-mentally ill person.”

And now the seamy side of her election campaign: the affair with former Rep. Tim Murphy and the allegation that the pro-life Republican demanded she get an abortion when Edwards thought, mistakenly, that she was pregnant.

Murphy, an eight-term incumbent, resigned from Congress in October. The 65-year old clinical psychologist admitted to the affair with the 33-year-old Edwards in early September when he was deposed as a witness in the divorce case between Edwards and her husband, Dr. Jesse Sally.

“Last year I became involved in an affair with a personal friend. This is nobody’s fault but my own, and I offer no excuses. To the extent that there should be any blame in this matter, it falls solely upon me,” Murphy said in a statement after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke the story of his deposition.

About a month later, under pressure from his GOP colleagues in the House, Murphy walked away from Congress and promised not to run for re-election.

“Upon further discussion with my family, I have made the decision to resign my position” effective Oct. 21, Murphy wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “I am grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of southwestern Pennsylvania and to have worked with the talented and dedicated men and women of the United States Congress.”

Edwards said she expects her relationship with Mr. Murphy will be a recurring theme during her campaign.

“I don’t regret having the relationship,” Edwards told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette referring to her affair with Murphy. “We worked very closely on legislation that did a lot for my patients and clients. I can’t rewrite the past, and I don’t know what other course it could have gone.”

Even if voters are willing to forgive the sin of infidelity, Edwards could have another problem: her estranged husband, Dr. Jesse Sally, said Edwards threatened to kill him in 2016.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported an Allegheny County judge granted a temporary restraining order in 2016 against Edwards after Sally said she came home after drinking with neighbors and pushed his head into a pillow.

Sally said he was able to escape but she came up to him and said, “I’m going to kill you.”  Another time, Sally said in his request for the temporary protection-from-abuse order, Edwards threatened to kill him in his sleep with a steak knife “or hire a hit man.”

During the court session, Sally’s attorney, Dorothy Wolbert, was in the hallway taking with Edwards’ attorney when Edwards walked into the hall. Moment later, Wolbert returned to the courtroom asking for security because she had been attacked.

Edwards filed her own request for a protection-from-abuse order against Dr. Sally because she said he’d fought with her physically to stop her from taking his car keys.

Both Edwards and Sally eventually agreed not to enforce their PFA orders while they are working on a more amicable divorce, which would include custody of their 7-year old daughter.

Even if she eventually can split from her husband and they work out an arrangement regarding their child, Edwards knows that in a close election her personal life will be grist for the Pennsylvania political mill.

“My opponents are likely to spend egregious amounts of time and money in an attempt to display my human mistakes for all to see,” Edwards said. “I was warned. I have been given explanations. I have been told to back down, and I am here to tell you, nevertheless, I will endure.”