Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), dogged by an influence peddling probe in Washington, will not seek re-election, state Sen. Joy Padgett said early Monday.

Ney called Padgett on Saturday and asked the fellow Republican to run in his place, saying that defending himself has been a strain on his family, she said.

"It’s a very sad time," Padgett said of Ney’s decision, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on its Web site.

She said Ney told her, "that there’s only so much he can take. He said, ‘I have to do this.’"

Padgett told The Associated Press she would run for Ney’s seat.

Calls to Ney’s office and staff were not immediately returned. He has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Padgett said Ney told her he intends to serve the remainder of his term.

The six-term congressman from Heath in central Ohio had insisted he would not resign even if indicted over his dealings with now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In his first primary test in a decade, Ney won 68 percent of the vote May 2 against a little-known opponent.

However, he faced a tough challenge in November from Democrat Zack Space, who had made the Justice Department’s investigation into Ney a focus of his campaign.

For the first three months of 2006, Ney’s campaign spent more than it raised, a deficit he blamed on mounting legal costs. In the past three months, it was unusually intense campaigning in his expansive rural district that caused the incumbent to spend $52,675 more than donors gave him, he said.

"I’m embattled and attacked; I understand that," Ney told The AP last month after Space raised about $190,000 more than Ney for the quarter.

Ney, 52, told the Tribune-Review that his family had not asked him to drop out, but he wanted to spare them anyway.

"I’m doing this for one reason: my family. My wife and two children have been through enough," he said.

Ney also was frustrated that the scandal was overshadowing his work, the newspaper reported.

Padgett, who said she has known Ney for at least 20 years, was flattered that he and House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, asked her to run. She said she wished the circumstances were different, "but you have to take life as it’s given."

Calls to Boehner’s staff were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press