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Shock, outrage in Foley's district

Constituents say they’re angry about the scandal and its effect on the GOP. Many say they’ll still vote for his replacement, though.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published October 1, 2006


JUPITER — “Could it be true?” asked Jupiter mortgage broker Margaret Moriarty, 47, a political independent who watched the Mark Foley scandal unfold on a Sunday morning news show.

“It’s the result of society’s acceptance of homosexuality,” said enraged Republican Fred Cisewski, 72, of Palm Beach Gardens.

“I wouldn’t have been shocked, if he was just gay, but, like, what an idiot,” said Anna Wharton, 52, a Jupiter independent who voted for Foley and works as a children’s librarian.

“He should have just accepted that he’s gay and go with it.”

At Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties, constituents of former District 16 U.S. Rep. Mark Foley read Sunday newspapers, sipped coffee and gossiped about their former congressman.

It’s the stuff of daytime talk shows, but this is a man they thought they knew, a man they voted for and planned to support in November. And, now, his troubles are all over television and the newspapers.

Most people said they were angry and disturbed and thought the scandal cast a shadow on the Republican Party, especially if leadership knew for months that Foley had sent questionable e-mails to teenage former congressional pages.

But most of the 20 or so independents and Republicans from Foley’s former district who talked to the St. Petersburg Times Sunday said they still plan to vote in November and would consider whoever the Republicans nominate to take Foley’s place, even though Foley’s name will remain on the ballot.

“It’s an absolute tragedy, but it doesn’t influence my vote,” said Joan Cisewski, who was sipping coffee with her husband, Fred, outside a Jupiter Starbucks. “But, certainly, the Democrats will win this election now.”

The scandal dominated the conversation between Robin Thompson, 44, of Palm Beach Gardens and her friend Patti Brenan, 59, of Jupiter at a Starbucks in a Jupiter strip mall.

Both independents, they mused over the irony of Foley’s championing the rights of children while at the same time sending sexually explicit messages to former pages. They wondered whether he’d commit suicide.

“What’s the point of life after that?” asked Thompson, a real estate agent and mother of a 6-year-old.

She is most upset about the apparent silence among congressional leadership. “Whoever covered this up, they should be charged with child abuse, too, because they let this happen.”

 Ernest Williamson, 62, a Palm Beach Gardens donor to the Republican Party, said the timing of the scandalous revelations makes him want to contribute more to the party in its time of need. He said he’s disgusted with Foley.
But he’s also convinced that Democrats orchestrated the timing of the news.

“Sure he did something he shouldn’t have done, but I’m also sure the Democrats did their dirtiest to dig this up right before the election,” said Williamson, as he sipped espresso with his wife, Ursula, a fellow Republican, while reading a Sunday newspaper about the scandal. Both voted for Foley and plan to vote for whoever takes his place.
Republican Nancy Dowd sucked hard on her cigarette and grimaced as she read a day-old Palm Beach Post story about Foley at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I vote Republican, but they’re all pretty crooked right now,” said Dowd, 76, who likes President Bush and his foreign policy.

Dowd said she thinks Congress needs to raise the minimum age of pages to 18 years old. She plans to vote Republican again in November.

At the next table, Port St. Lucie independents Ron Blackney and his wife, Cathy, debated the scandal. Both voted for Foley before and planned to support him in November.

Ron Blackney said he wants to see a congressional investigation before he makes a final judgement, although he’s glad Foley resigned and called the move “unselfish, and good for the party.”

Cathy Blackney was more dismissive, calling Foley “sick” and “kind of sad.”

Both said they’d consider another Republican.

“It has nothing to do with the next individual, this is about Foley,” Ron Blackney said.
Democrats tended to be more outraged.

“He should be prosecuted, because if someone like me would have done that, he’d be in jail,” said 25-year-old Chester Pownall of the St. Lucie West planned community. He’s a Democratic-leaning independent who works as a newspaper carrier.

Yet, some Democrats said they were unsure whether the Foley scandal would help their party. Many independents said they didn’t know much about the Democrat running in the 16th Congressional District, Tim Mahoney.
A few independents said they thought the Democratic candidate was Ron Klein, who is running in a competitive congressional race farther south.

“I think it hurts the whole political system, because Foley was a leader,” said Jason Taber, 33, of Jupiter, who voted against Foley last time around and plans to support Mahoney.

“Can the Democrats win? It depends on who they’re up against.”