Tales of Electoral Hijinks, Part 3: Congressman Continues Proud Tradition in Florida District

Congressional Elections, US Elections

There must be something in the water in FLA-16, a water-bounded district that spans south central Florida from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico and that embraces the northeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Or perhaps it is the influence of the moon, or a peculiar alignment of the stars. Whatever it is, surely there is some mysterious power at work in these environs. How else is one to explain the bipartisan madness that affects its elected representatives to congress?

How YOU doin?

Rep. Tim Mahoney: "How YOU doin'?"

This is the district, after all, that elected Mark Foley to the House of Representatives. Foley, for those two or three benighted souls out there who have just returned from a lengthy Peace Corps mission to Burkina Fasso or who have been in a coma for the past two years, was the Republican congressman who resigned in disgrace on the eve of the 2006 mid-term election when it was revealed that he was exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with male congressional pages. Once the press published the messages, Foley suddenly remembered something very important that he had failed to mention to his constituents: that he was, in fact, gay and that he liked to send sexually explicit instant messages to congressional pages — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Well, actually there is, but Foley explained that the lurid IMs were the result of a drinking problem and the lingering after-effects of molestation at the hands of priest when Foley was an altar boy. That and presumably the whole homosexuality thing, I’m sure.

Foley’s indiscretions left the local Republican Party in a worse fix than a state legislator stuck in a bathroom with a “pretty stocky black man.” With the election fast approaching and no time to reprint the ballots, the party was left with no other option than to tell the voters of FLA-16 to punch Foley’s name on the ballot as a way to elect Joe Negron, the candidate chosen to replace him. What the GOP officials forgot is that they were appealing to some of the same people who, in 2000, couldn’t figure out that punching Pat Buchanan’s name on a butterfly ballot was a less-than-optimal way of expressing their support for Al Gore. The result was that the Democratic challenger, Tim Mahoney, won the contest, although by a slim two-point margin.

Fast forward two years.  Mahoney is involved in another tight race, this time against Tom Rooney, an army vet and scion of the Pittsburgh Steelers-owning Rooney family.  Mahoney would, under normal circumstances, have had a difficult time retaining his seat in a district that, in 2004, gave 55 percent of its vote to George W. Bush.  In addition, he doesn’t have the advantage this time of running against the last-minute replacement of someone who was generally suspected of being a pederast.  As a result, most observers rated this contest a “toss-up” from the beginning.

Things only got worse for Mahoney when, on October 13, ABC News reported that the congressman had paid $121,000 in hush money and other expenses to Patricia Allen, a former mistress who had previously worked on Mahoney’s staff.  Allen and Mahoney, it appears, started getting chummy during the 2006 campaign, on which Allen worked as a volunteer.  While Mahoney was telling voters that he wanted “a world that is safer, more moral,” a world where the citizens of central Florida would presumably be safe from the scourge of Mark Foley’s instant messages, he was still able to carve out an ethics-free oasis right in the middle of his election team.  Niiiice!

After his electoral victory, Mahoney hired Allen to work on his congressional staff at an annual salary of $36,000, probably all in low denomination bills.  The affair, however, was fated not to endure — further evidence that workplace romances just don’t work out.  Allen threatened to end the relationship when she found out that Mahoney was cheating on her with another woman, or, more accurately, another other woman.  Mahoney reacted by telling Allen “You work at my pleasure,” a point which, one would think, had already been firmly established.  Mahoney then, in one deft move, simultaneously fired and dumped Allen, proving, if nothing else, that he is an efficient multi-tasker, not to mention a “bad breaker-upper.”

Confronted by the Palm Beach Post, Mahoney admitted not only that he had an affair with Allen but that he also had “multiple affairs.”  The congressman left us to guess what the meaning of “multiple” might be in this context, although he provided a clue that it is “more than one.”  In addition, the affairs involved “animals, not vegetables or minerals” and they were all “bigger than a breadbox.”

Mahoney defended himself by saying that the settlement with Allen came entirely from his own money, not from campaign or taxpayer funds.  “I have not violated my oath of office, nor have I violated any laws,” said Mahoney, which is at least better than the “I am a gay American” line used by disgraced New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, caught with his pants down in similar, albeit gayer, circumstances.

The only thing missing from Mahoney’s mea maxima culpa session with the Post was the obligatory press conference where, in the tradition of Mrs. McGreevey, Mrs. Spitzer, Mrs. Vetter, and so many others, his wife could take the opportunity to look both stoic and mortified in approximately equal proportions.  That came three days earlier.  With his wife beside him, appearing as if she had just been hit in the back of the head with a rubber mallet, Mahoney said “our private life is our private life.”  Really, there’s just so much wrong with that statement.

Mahoney has managed the seemingly impossible: in an election where Republican congressional candidates are in trouble everywhere, Mahoney is the only Democratic incumbent in the country who is now expected to lose his reelection bid.  Given the history of this congressional district, we will then be left to speculate on what sort of sexual shenanigans Tom Rooney will engage in that will result in his downfall in 2010.  Stay tuned, America!

3 Comments

1 Comment

  1. nimh  •  Oct 20, 2008 @11:30 am

    Heh. Witty as always.

    TPM had the best headline on this one though. ;-)

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