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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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When Hobe Sound poll worker William Harrington was asked about the Foley-Negron-ballot issue, he said, "I can't answer any question about that. We're under tight restrictions."

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He added: "We received on Monday morning a sheet saying we could give no assistance as to candidates and we were warned that there might be people like you testing what we do."

One voter, Anita Hunt, said she overheard a man complaining loudly to officials manning the Hobe Sound precinct. "He was saying all kinds of four-letter words and 'I don't understand this,' " Ms. Hunt said. She said she heard the poll worker suggest that the man should ask his wife for help with his question. She said she heard the poll worker tell the man, "I can't advise you."

Despite the incident, voters emerging from the polls at Hobe Sound said they had no problem voting for the candidate of their choice – including many who said they voted for Negron.

"It is not confusing at all," said Jean Aldridge, after casting her ballot for Negron. "Anyone listening to the news or reading the paper should know."

Kevin Conway said he wasn't confused by the ballot. "I wouldn't vote for either Foley or Negron," he says. But he added that he saw no reason why new ballots couldn't be printed "for the dumb Republicans who want to vote for Negron."

Some voters interviewed after casting their ballots said they were disappointed with Foley, but that they wouldn't hold the scandal against the Republican Party or Negron. Others aren't so willing to forgive.

Marilyn Budensiek, a Negron campaign volunteer, says she's seen angry voters. "I do think Mark Foley has hurt the Republican cause," she says. "That may be more of a burden than Joe Negron not being on the ballot."

Robert Page, a self-described independent voter, said the scandal "swayed me all the way" to vote Democratic. "It is like a decaying process from the top down," he said of Republican elected officials.

How the corruption cloud may affect contests for House seats

Three House seats were left open by lawmakers now under investigation. Democrats are taking advantage.

Ohio, 18th District: Democrat Zack Space is ahead in the polls to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Bob Ney (R), who pleaded guilty this month to taking favors in return for official actions on behalf of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients. Mr. Ney's hand-picked candidate is state Sen. Joy Padgett.

Texas, 22nd District: The seat held by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R) is expected to shift to Democratic control. Mr. DeLay resigned from Congress in June amid money-laundering charges in Texas, and Republicans, barred by law from substituting a name on the ballot, must pin their hopes on a write-in campaign. The Democrats' Nick Lampson, a former congressman, is running strong.

Arizona, Eighth District: Rep. Jim Kolbe (R), who recently came under scrutiny for taking a 1996 camping trip with congressional pages, is retiring. Democrat Gabrielle Giffords leads Republican Randy Graf.

Some House incumbents under investigation are running for reelection. They deny wrongdoing.

California, Fourth District: Rep. John Doolittle (R) accepted campaign money from Mr. Abramoff and used the lobbyist's luxury sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it. Mr. Doolittle faces little-known Democrat Charlie Brown in a strongly Republican district and appears poised for victory.

California, 41st District: Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) accepted $60,000 from San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes, who hired a lobbying firm to push the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman for federally funded projects. An investigation by federal prosecutors became public weeks before the primary, too late for Mr. Lewis to attract strong opposition.

Louisiana, Second District: Rep. William Jefferson (D) was the target of an FBI raid in May at his Capitol Hill office as part of an investigation into whether he took a $100,000 bribe in 2005 – all but $10,000 of which was alleged to be found in the freezer of his Washington home. Jefferson faces a long list of challengers, and the state Democratic Party has endorsed his closest competitor, Karen Carter.

Pennsylvania, Seventh District: The political future of Rep. Curt Weldon (R) is in doubt amid allegations he used his influence to help his daughter's lobbying firm secure contracts worth $1 million from foreign clients. The FBI raided his daughter's home and office this month in what Mr. Weldon termed a politically motivated inquiry. Weldon faces Democrat Joe Sestak.

West Virginia, First District: Rep. Alan Mollohan (D) faces a stiff challenge from Republican Chris Wakim, who has support from the national Republican Party and big names such as first lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Mollohan is the subject of an investigation into federal money given to nonprofit groups that contributed to his campaigns.

– Associated Press

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