With his sentencing weeks away, Rep. Bill DeWeese took to the House floor today to bid farewell to the chamber where he has served for more than three decades.
DeWeese, a Democratic former speaker of the House, has continued to represent Greene County after his convictions in February on five felony corruption charges, but the law prevents him from continuing after he is sentenced on April 24. The House meets this week for the last time before that day, also the date of primary elections this year.
Standing on the chamber floor, DeWeese waxed as eloquent as ever, citing Samuel Johnson, Jack Benny and Augustine and drawing laughter from both sides of the aisle.
He referred only glancingly to the circumstances that will force his departure from the House.
"We are all, I think, endeavoring to do our best," he said. "Mistakes are made, and that's where this humility comes in. Now I'm not as humble as I want to be, but I'm a lot more humble than I used to be."
Having promised at the outset to speak of gratitude and humility, he continued, "That's pretty much that part of the speech," prompting laughter and applause from the lawmakers.
DeWeese mentioned numerous lawmakers, Republicans included, by name, and thanked Capitol workers from the security guards to the "guys in the mailroom."
"I can say it with the harsh reality of the moment," he said. "There are more important things than the speaker's gavel for me now, and there are more important things than the speaker's portrait. My recollections now will be the friendships with the people on this floor."
After he spoke, Speaker Sam Smith, a Republican, recalled a time when DeWeese, during floor debate, had told a male state representative that he loved him, before blushing and clarifying that he meant the remark "in a wholesome and manly way."
"The greatest gift of all is love," Smith said. "May you go in love."
DeWeese is the only Democrat running for the House in his district. In successfully countering a ballot challenge, he and his attorney argued that the appeals system could reverse his convictions in time for him to return to the House next session. DeWeese said he plans to pursue appeals the day after his sentencing.