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GOP slips at Foley scandal's epicenter

Florida's red-tinted 16th District may swing blue after US Rep. Mark Foley resignation.

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Florida's 16th Congressional District is a classic political gerrymander drawn to favor Republican candidates over Democrats. Shaped like a squashed plumber's wrench, it meanders across eight counties to link Republican strongholds on Florida's east and west coasts.

But even the fanciest handiwork of Republican line-drawers in Tallahassee may be of little comfort to Joe Negron this election season. He is the former state representative from Stuart tapped by the Republican Party to run for the seat left vacant by disgraced US Rep. Mark Foley amid the Congressional page scandal.

Mr. Foley's former seat is one of the four most vulnerable Republican congressional seats in the Nov. 7 election, says the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. It is considered a key contest in a national push by Democrats to gain 15 or more seats to take control of the House of Representatives and elevate Nancy Pelosi to House speaker.

Although Florida's 16th Congressional District is designed to produce Republican winners, analysts say this year may be different.

"It is going to be a very tough go for Negron to win," says Del Ali of the independent polling firm Research 2000.

Two weeks ago, a poll by Mr. Ali showed Mr. Negron trailing Democratic candidate Tim Mahoney by 7 percentage points. The pollster says Democrats are more fired up than Republicans, and that independent voters in the district – a critical voting bloc – favor Mr. Mahoney by 30 points.

"If Negron becomes competitive with independents, that is how he would pull it out," Ali says. "He has got to take it to within five or six points."

Democrat hits hurricane insurance

Mahoney, who runs a financial- services company, is critical of the local economy and skyrocketing hurricane insurance rates in campaign appearances and ads. He is also pushing the need for change in Washington.

Negron is hoping to capitalize on campaign stops by Gov. Jeb Bush, who is said to enjoy a 60-plus percent approval rating among district voters.


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