In an unexpected blow to the GOP's hopes of holding onto the House of Representatives, Florida Rep. Mark Foley has just resigned amid questions about e-mail messages he sent to a 16-year-old congressional page. As the Associated Press reports, Foley had been expected to be a "shoo-in" for reelection until it was reported Thursday that he had sent a series of e-mail messages in which he asked the page for a picture and a description of the "stuff" he liked "to do."
Foley's office and campaign staff had insisted that there was nothing inappropriate about a 52-year-old member of Congress engaging in such communications with a 16-year-old former page. Foley spokesman Jason Kello had accused Democrat Tim Mahoney's campaign of distributing the emails as part of a "political smear campaign of the worst sort." "They have taken these e-mails out of context in order to smear a good man," Kello told the Associated Press. Now Foley says that he's "deeply sorry ... for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent."
While the e-mail messages were vague enough that Foley might have explained them away successfully, ABC News says it has obtained instant-messaging text he sent to other underage male pages in which the congressman "made repeated references to sexual organs and acts." ABC says Foley's resignation came shortly after it questioned him about the IM content.
It's not immediately clear to us whether the GOP will be able to replace Foley on the November ballot or what will happen to votes cast for him if it can't. The Florida Secretary of State's Office tells us that staff members are "briefing" on the question right now and will get back to us with an answer as soon as they have one.
Update: DailyKos has what seems to be the relevant section of Florida law. It suggests that Foley's name will remain on the ballot and that any votes cast for him will go to the replacement nominee the Republicans choose.
Update 2: A spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State's office just confirmed for us that Foley's name will have to remain on the ballot in November and that any votes cast for him will be deemed to be votes for the candidate the GOP chooses to replace him. The spokeswoman said voters will not be able to write in the name of a replacement candidate. Thus, anyone wishing to vote for the Republicans' replacement for Foley will have to cast his or her vote for the disgraced congressman instead.