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Condit skips usual Fourth celebrations

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MODESTO, Calif. — On a day Rep. Gary Condit traditionally spends waving to supporters from the back of a parade convertible and basking in the pride of his district, he was nowhere to be seen.

Facing new allegations of an extramarital affair and questions about his relationship with a missing Washington intern, the Democrat canceled appearances at three Independence Day parades in his central California farming district.

"Another circumstance arose that he had to attend to," said Mike Lynch, Condit's chief of staff. Lynch declined to say what that development was but said Condit's reason would become clear in a few days.

Parade organizers said they were told Condit feared his presence would detract from the family atmosphere.

Police in Washington say the congressman is not a suspect in the disappearance of Chandra Levy, 24, a former U.S. Bureau of Prisons intern who hasn't been heard from since April 30.

Condit has described Levy as a "great person and a good friend," but has said little else.

Aides have denied the 53-year-old married congressman was having an affair with Levy, but Susan Levy has said her daughter said in April that she was seeing Condit. He has represented their district in Congress since 1989.

In an interview with The Associated Press at her Modesto home on Wednesday, Susan Levy wouldn't discuss Condit or the private conversation she had with him a week ago in Washington.

"It's awful. It's like a dream I want to be over," she said.

During the interview, she received a call from Anne Marie Smith, a flight attendant who has said that she had a 10-month affair with Condit and that Condit had asked her to sign a form denying it.

One of Condit's lawyers said the form was sent to Smith after an inquiry about their relationship from Star magazine but that she wasn't urged to sign it. In a brief statement Tuesday, Condit said: "I have not asked anyone to refrain from discussing this matter with authorities, nor have I suggested anyone mislead the authorities."

Susan Levy spoke only briefly with Smith, telling her she was a "sweetheart."

"I thanked her for being brave and coming forward," she said. She wouldn't comment further on the conversation.

Susan Levy didn't attend the Modesto parade Wednesday, but a small group of people marched along the route holding up pictures of the missing woman and waving flyers about her disappearance. On the street where the Levys live, yellow ribbons flap from mailboxes, lampposts and street signs.

Condit's absence was noted by many along the parade routes.

"I think people support him and would have backed him," said Dave Mackley, who expected Condit to show up in Modesto. "I think him not being here cast a spell on him. I think it's going to be hard for him to come back."

"He's going to get hit with mud anyway," said Jack Tucker, a retiree at a parade in Atwater. "He's afraid they're going to dig deep into his past."

Others said they think Condit has been unfairly treated.

"Would you be here with all the crap he's going through?" asked Bonnie Sarginson.


On the Net:

Condit's site: www.house.gov/gcondit