Divided by politics, united by friendship
By BILL ADAIR
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 10, 2000
Reps. Robert Wexler and Mark Foley are the point and counterpoint in the election chaos.
Foley, R-West Palm Beach, has been a staunch advocate for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, saying the ballot confusion in Palm Beach County was created by Democrats.
Wexler, D-Boca Raton, has sided with the Gore campaign and said the ballots were illegal.
The South Florida lawmakers have appeared together on TV so often that they seem to be permanently separated by a split screen. They are favorites of the news media because they speak in short, lively sound bites and they aren't afraid to argue.
On Larry King Live Wednesday night, they challenged each other's numbers and exchanged snappy remarks.
Wexler said many Palm Beach County residents left the polls "hysterical" because they realized they had been so confused by the ballot that they mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan. Wexler said the ballot's layout did not comply with Florida law.
"Illegal is illegal, confusion is confusion, and the presidency shouldn't hinge on it," Wexler said.
Foley insisted "there was not mass confusion" and noted that "a Democratic supervisor of elections approved the layout and approved the ballot."
Foley said previous election results show Buchanan has lots of supporters in Palm Beach, although he joked that backers of the arch-conservative "may be deranged."
Wexler and Foley spar as political rivals, but they are friends who say they can put aside their differences.
They were in the Florida Legislature together. In Congress, they each represent Palm Beach County -- Foley from the northern part, Wexler the south -- and they often work together on state and local issues.
Wexler, a member of House Judiciary Committee, was one of President Clinton's most vocal supporters during the impeachment trial.
He often debated conservative Republicans on TV talk shows, and he gave a fiery speech on the House floor against the impeachment vote.
Wexler, 39, said he was speaking up on the election results because "the presidency of the United States hangs in the balance."
"The entire election system of America is on trial right now. We need to make certain it is done in a fair way," he said.
Foley, 46, has been a leader in the effort to improve relations between the Republican Party and the entertainment industry, which is usually aligned with Democrats.
Foley said Thursday he was appearing on the talk shows because he believed many of the Democratic complaints were groundless.
"Somebody has to bring a little balance and perspective," he said.
He and Wexler may disagree about the issues, but they don't take it personally.
"I think we are both professional to know that this is an important issue to our community," Foley said.
Wexler said, "At times we take different positions, but it is never personal. I respect him and the kind of congressman that he is."
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From the Times election desk
From the AP