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Rep. Foley Quits over E-Mails to Male Teen Pages

SCOTT SIMON, host:

The abrupt resignation of Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley late yesterday offers another opportunity for Democrats to pick up one more seat. Mr. Foley resigned after news organizations began to make public e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages that he sent to teenage congressional pages. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN: The existence of the e-mails and instant messages was first reported by ABC. First to surface were the e-mails Foley wrote to a 16-year-old boy who had been working as a Capitol page. In the e-mails, Foley asked the boy to send him a picture and asked him what he wanted for his birthday. His staff defended the messages as harmless, saying the Democrats were trying to smear Foley. That was Thursday. By Friday afternoon Foley had resigned, releasing just a short statement: I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida.

What had changed was the discovery by ABC of a second series of notes, instant messages much more explicit that Foley reportedly exchanged with other congressional pages. In one of the messages Foley asks, Do I make you a little horny? Making the episode even stranger is that Foley was the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus and had recently introduced a bill to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. Yesterday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert ordered a check of the system overseeing House pages, saying, quote, "We want to make sure that all of our pages are safe."

Mark Foley's resignation, less than six weeks before the election, presents new problems for Republican leaders who need to hold on to as many seats as possible if they're going to avoid losing control of the House of Representatives to Democrats in November. Foley, a six-term incumbent, represented the area around Palm Beach. He was locked in a nasty race against Democratic businessman Tim Mahoney. Foley was well ahead in the polls and considered a shoe in for reelection. Ballots with Mark Foley's name on them had already been printed and absentee ballots had been sent out. Sterling Ivey, spokesperson for Florida's Secretary of State, says state law dictates that if a candidate withdraws after the primary, that person's name cannot be removed from the ballot.

Mr. STERLING IVEY (Spokesperson for Florida's Secretary of State): The state law further goes on to explain that any vote cast for the candidate who withdrew - any vote cast for that candidate would be applied to the new nominee, even though the new nominee's name is not on the ballot.

ALLEN: Republican leaders in Florida have seven days to decide who that person will be. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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