Google News 30/9/2006
Republican Rep. Foley Resigns, Drops Re-election Bid in Fla. 16
By Susan Ferrechio
Six-term Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., notified House leaders Friday that he is resigning from the House effective immediately — a sudden and unexpected reaction to questions of impropriety that arose just days before.
“I was surprised,” Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after being informed of Foley’s decision. “I didn’t know what the situation was.”
Earlier this week, an ABC News online blog reported that a male former congressional page, aged 16, had complained about e-mail messages from Foley asking for the teen’s photograph.
Hastert declined to speculate about what would happen now in Foley’s 16th District as Republicans battle to maintain control of the House in a midterm election that offers Democrats their strongest shot in years at recapturing a majority.
“We’ll see,” he said.
An early reading of Florida election law suggests GOP officials will be able to put a replacement candidate on the ballot, although Foley’s name will likely remain as well. State Sen. Jeff Atwater has been mentioned as a possible replacement.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Foley, in a series of e-mails last year, asked about the youth’s schooling, inquired what he wanted for an upcoming birthday and requested a picture.
ABCNews.com reported Thursday that the page became uncomfortable with the dialog and forwarded the e-mails to an associate on Capitol Hill. In an excerpt reported on ABCNews.com, the youth wrote: “Maybe it is just me being paranoid, but seriously. This freaked me out.” The page later called the e-mails “sick sick sick sick sick.”
“I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent,” Foley said in a statement after he submitted his resignation to Hastert.
Foley, 52, had been considered a shoo-in for re-election until news about the e-mails surfaced. His Democratic opponent, Tim Mahoney, jumped on the allegations soon after they surfaced in the blogs, demanding an investigation.
Foley has been one of the more visible figures in Congress, thanks to his approachable demeanor and his inclusion in Republican power circles. Whether the issue is taxes or trade, internal congressional political deals or Hollywood lobbying, Foley usually has a quotable comment. He also often knows how floor votes will fare as he is a top deputy in the Republican whip operation.
He once was considered a viable statewide candidate and in 2003, he mounted a campaign for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham. During the campaign, however, he felt he had to address rumors about his sexuality. “I’m declaring today that I have a right to privacy, like anyone else in this country,” Foley told the St. Petersburg Times in May 2003. “The fact that I’m not married has led many people to speculate, but I’m not going to be dragged into the gutter by these rumormongers.” He eventually backed out of the race nearly a year before the primary, saying that his father was ill with cancer.
On some social issues, Foley strays from the majority in his party. In July, he was one of 27 House Republicans voting against a leadership-backed proposed constitutional amendment (H J Res 88) banning same-sex marriage.
When he is questioned about his vote, he notes that he voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which permits states to refuse recognition of a same-sex marriage endorsed in other states.
A member of the Ways and Means Committee, Foley joined the Trade Subcommittee in the current Congress. He is not always supportive of Bush’s trade proposals. He initially opposed but later voted for reviving fast-track trade procedures, a top Bush priority that became law in 2002.
Walt Disney Co. and Universal Studios are powerful economic players in Florida, and Foley’s work on Capitol Hill included the chairmanship of the House Entertainment Caucus. As a leading GOP emissary to Hollywood, he has worked to build bridges between the industry and his party.
At the time of his resignation, he was co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Childrens Caucus and of the Travel and Tourism Caucus.
Born into an Irish-Catholic family on the outskirts of Boston, Foley moved to Florida as a child and says he began his political career at age 5, distributing flyers for a local candidate. In 1975, he opened the Lettuce Patch restaurant with his mother and later became a real estate broker. He won a seat — as a Democrat — on the Lake Worth City Council two years later, at 23. After some failed bids to move up the political ladder and a President Reagan-prompted party switch to the GOP, his career began lurching forward with his election to the state House in 1990.
He moved to the state Senate two years later, where he chaired the Agriculture Committee, and just two years after that he was elected to Congress to succeed Republican Tom Lewis, who retired. Foley’s image as a moderate generated some opposition from conservatives in the GOP primary, but his fundraising apparatus was impressive, and he won easily.
Foley’s re-election contests have been uneventful, and the post-census redistricting improved GOP prospects in the 16th District.