12/31/2001 at 01:00 AM EST
For three months this summer, the nation was obsessed with a 53-year-old Democratic congressman from Ceres, Calif., and a Washington intern named Chandra Levy, his 24-year-old "good friend" who vanished May 1 without a trace. The story proved a worthy heir to the scandals of O.J., Jon-Benét and Monica. Were they lovers? Did he do her in? What did he know? In four interviews with investigators, Gary Condit asserted that he had no hand in Chandra's disappearance. In August he launched a PR offensive that served as a primer in how not to save your reputation. Whether in the pages of PEOPLE (Sept. 3) or on Prime Time with Connie Chung, Condit was impenetrably evasive. Democrats, including California Gov. Gray Davis, abandoned him. Then came Sept. 11, and in a few horrific moments many Americans wondered why they'd ever cared about Gary Condit at all.
Did he savor his renewed obscurity? Far from it. In what some saw as a stunning act of hubris, Condit announced on Dec. 7 that he would run for reelection in 2002. "I've got a great record in Congress," he declared. He faces an uphill primary fight against Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza. "Gary can't win that seat," says state Democratic party chairman Art Torres. Indeed, Chandra Levy is still missing—and Condit is still under investigation. "This is a very active case," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips. No one knows that better than Levy's anguished parents, Robert and Susan. "I have not forgotten my daughter," her mother says. "The pain is still there."