Fla. Republicans Vying to Take Back Foley's Seat

August 26, 2008 - 11:26 AM
Three Republicans were vying Tuesday for a chance to take back the congressional seat the GOP lost when Rep. Mark Foley resigned in disgrace two years ago.
Tallahassee, Fla. (AP) - Three Republicans were vying Tuesday for a chance to take back the congressional seat the GOP lost when Rep. Mark Foley resigned in disgrace two years ago.

In Alaska, meanwhile, six Republicans hoped to knock off embattled Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. But experts said his recent indictment on corruption charges posed little threat to his quest for the GOP nomination to seek a seventh full term.

Election officials reported light turnout for Florida's primary, which featured no statewide races and few local and legislative races that have drawn intense interest.

Republicans consider Foley's old district, which extends from Palm Beach County across the state to Charlotte County on the Gulf coast, their only chance to boot a sitting Democrat. Rep. Tim Mahoney barely beat the Republicans' last-minute replacement for Foley there two years ago.

Foley was considered a lock for re-election until he stepped down a little more than a month before Election Day 2006 amid accusations he sent sexually inappropriate computers messages to teenage male congressional pages. He has never been charged with a crime, but FBI and state law enforcement are investigating whether he violated any laws.

Mahoney's challengers are Tom Rooney, a lawyer and former Army officer; Hal Valeche, a wealthy investor and former Palm Beach Gardens city councilor; and state Rep. Gayle Harrell.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed Rooney this month, a rare move in a competitive Republican primary campaign that has become increasingly negative.

Mahoney, who has built a reputation as a moderate Democrat and he has raised nearly $2.5 million for his campaign, has repeatedly said he hates Washington politics but disputes Republican claims that he doesn't like his job.

In Alaska, Stevens' opponents included a former one-term state representative, a small-town pastor and three men who reported spending nothing on the race. His strongest challenge was likely to come from former state Rep. Dave Cuddy, a member of a prominent Anchorage banking family.

Stevens is accused of failing to report $250,000 in home improvement work and other gifts from an oil industry businessman.

But he is a beloved figure among loyalists and is known throughout the state as "Uncle Ted," largely because of the billions of dollars in federal aid he has delivered to a frontier state that has precious little industry. Stevens was named the Alaskan of the Century in 2000, and the Anchorage airport bears his name.

If he survives the primary, his opponent in November is likely to be Democrat Mark Begich, the popular mayor of Anchorage and the son of former Rep. Nick Begich, who died in a plane crash while in office in 1972. Begich faces only token opposition in the primary.

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Associated Press Writers Matt Sedensky in Miami and Dan Joling in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.