Watch CBSN Live

Foley's Folly Opens Door For Democrats

Considered a long shot just two days ago to unseat a prominent House Republican, Democrat Tim Mahoney on Saturday began to talk about the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley that may propel him to Congress.

Foley resigned Friday after revelations that he exchanged raunchy electronic messages with a teenage boy, a former congressional page, sending the Florida GOP scrambling for a replacement candidate less than six weeks before the election.

Mahoney on Saturday criticized Republican leaders for not fully investigating Foley when e-mails to the 16-year-old page were brought to their attention about a year ago. Pages are high school students who attend classes under congressional supervision and work as messengers.

"It looks to me that it was more important to hold onto a seat and to hold onto power than to take care of our children," Mahoney said. "I think that's wrong. I think that's what's wrong with Washington."

The office of the Speaker of the House said Saturday that it had become aware of the e-mails between Foley and the page in the fall of 2005 – but no one in the Speaker's office knew the exact content of the messages.

According to a statement for Dennis Hastert's office, Rep. Rodney Alexander's Chief of Staff first raised the issue of Foley's actions and was referred to the Clerk of the House.

"The Clerk asked to see the text of the email," Hastert's statement reads. "Congressman Alexander's office declined citing the fact that the family wished to maintain as much privacy as possible and simply wanted the contact to stop. The Clerk asked if the email exchange was of a sexual nature and was assured it was not."

Read the statement from Dennis Hastert's office

Read Rep. Foley's E-mail Exchange (from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)
Mahoney, a millionaire financial services executive who switched parties last year before entering the race, campaigned Saturday with Sen. John Kerry.

The Massachusetts senator was in the state to raise money for Democratic congressional candidates and party gubernatorial nominee Jim Davis. About Foley, he said, "It speaks for itself. Every parent in America is disgusted and disturbed by it."

Foley, R-Fla., who is single, apologized Friday for letting down his family and constituents. Hours after his resignation, Foley's former colleagues engineered a vote to let the House ethics committee decide whether an investigation is needed.

In Florida, Democrats found themselves suddenly competitive in a district where Foley, 52, had been considered a sure thing.

His resignation further complicates the political landscape for Republicans, who are fighting to retain control of Congress. Democrats need to win a net of 15 Republican seats to regain the power they lost in 1994.

Florida Republican officials on Saturday were still discussing the procedure to replace Foley as a candidate in the South Florida district, which President Bush won with 55 percent of the vote in 2004 and is now in play for November.

Though Florida ballots have already been printed with Foley's name and cannot be changed, any votes for Foley will count toward the party's choice.

State Rep. Joe Negron has been mentioned as a possible candidate. He would enter the race with several hundred thousand dollars left over from an attorney general campaign that he ended to avoid a primary with former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum.

"Tim Mahoney is spending his afternoon hanging out with John Kerry in Palm Beach County, and I think most voters in District 16 don't want a John Kerry Democrat representing them in Congress," Negron said. He said he has received the backing of many of state Republicans.

Foley, who represented an area around Palm Beach County and was chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect.

Foley e-mailed the page in August 2005. The boy was 16 at the time. Foley asked him how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and what he wanted for his birthday. The congressman also asked the boy to send a photo of himself, according to excerpts of the e-mails that were originally released by ABC News.

ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former pages, all male.