- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

JUPITER, Fla. — Ordinary voters and local officials alike here are stunned by former Rep. Mark Foley’s e-mail and instant-message exchanges with former congressional pages, and they detest the notion that his name will be linked to the area’s tranquil, conservative neighborhoods.

Janet Sheehan, a longtime resident of Jupiter, said she still has trouble believing a congressman — albeit one she didn’t vote for — would stoop to engaging in sexually suggestive conversations with minors. She questioned both the morals and sanity of the man at the center of a political maelstrom that she said has brought shame and ridicule to her community.

“He thought that he was above the law, that he was somehow privileged — beyond reproach,” she said.

Here in this community of sandy beaches, strip malls, gated communities, and golf courses, Jupiter residents who once considered Mr. Foley an asset on Capitol Hill now act with revulsion at his name.

“Generally, people had high regard for Mark [Foley],” said Bob Weisman, county administrator for Palm Beach County, which is in Florida’s 16th District.

Mr. Weisman said Mr. Foley was a dedicated lawmaker who often returned to the area while Congress was in session to attend local political meetings and converse with city officials. “So, of course, we were shocked and disappointed by his actions.”

“Several times he’s gone to bat for us,” noted Robert Minsky, the Democrat mayor of Port St. Lucie, recalling how Mr. Foley helped his city receive federal funding for a roads project and came through in the clutch when Port St. Lucie was battered by hurricanes Jeanne and Frances in recent years and needed federal assistance.

“We were having a hard time getting things loosened up” on Capitol Hill, Mr. Minsky said. “I went to Washington and explained to him that his constituents were hurting. He was there for us.”

Not all politicians here share Mr. Minsky’s positive perception of Mr. Foley on handling matters locally.

Fort Pierce Mayor Robert Benton said the lawmaker had promised to help his community get the funds needed to expand the city’s federal courthouse, but never delivered, which he called curious considering that Mr. Foley owns a home just a quarter-mile from his own.

“I was told [by a Foley aide] he’d rather have his teeth pulled than attend a public meeting” in the district, Mr. Benton said. “After that, we said we could do without him and now I’m glad we did.”

Mr. Benton also noted that Mr. Foley’s race against Democratic challenger Tim Mahoney was “one of the dirtiest I’ve ever seen” with mudslinging from both sides of the aisle.

Jupiter resident Bill Sharp, a retired steelworker and lifelong Republican, said he didn’t like what he saw of either candidate before the Foley scandal broke and would likely cast his vote for the Republican replacement candidate, state Rep. Joe Negron. But Mr. Sharp’s faith in politics here was severely shaken by Mr. Foley’s behavior, he said.

“He betrayed the trust of a lot of people,” he said while eating at a popular restaurant along Jupiter’s main thoroughfare. Outdoor Cafe owner Shawn Cronin agreed.

“He seemed like he was a decent guy doing a good job,” said Mr. Cronin, shaking his head in disbelief.

“It makes you wonder how many more there are [in Washington] like him. Where are they lurking?”

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