national, politics, campaign, election 2008
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Matthew Ratajczak/AP
Tim Mahoney

Mahoney Becomes Most Vulnerable Democratic Incumbent in US After Affair

October 23, 2008 08:51 AM
by Christopher Coats
Recent private and professional disasters have left a Florida Democrat one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, according to a new poll.

Mahoney’s Sees Re-election Hopes Vanish

Holding an edge in the polls until recently, Tim Mahoney of Florida’s 16th Congressional District took a plunge after it was revealed that he had paid a campaign staffer $122,000 to keep an affair quiet, USA Today reports.

The staffer was eventually fired, the affair was made public and Mahoney’s wife filed for divorce just this week.

According to The Hill, the poll, conducted by a Republican polling group, showed a decisive drop in Mahoney’s popularity, as he is now trailing by 26 points to Republican opponent Tom Rooney.

There is little doubt that Mahoney’s last month has cost him politically. Leading by seven points in early September, Mahoney’s campaign was rocked by an ABC report detailing the affair with campaign staffer Patricia Allen, and the subsequent attempt to pay for her silence.

Soon after, the Democratic National Committee reversed their funding for Mahoney’s campaign, and House Speaker and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation into his actions.

Upon closer scrutiny, Mahoney admitted to having another affair but would not specify how many. Soon after, Tammy Mahoney, his wife of 22 years, filed for divorce.

Of Mahoney’s undetermined relationships, one has come under additional scrutiny after it was alleged that he had carried on an affair with a county official while actively lobbying to win a $3.4 million grant for her district.

Mahoney’s vulnerability after just one term comes in a year where Democrats stand to make gains in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, making him a rare, if dramatic, exception to national trends.

Background: Previous Florida sex scandal

Ironically, Mahoney’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 came after his opponent was felled by a sexual scandal of his own.

In late September 2006, with Mahoney trailing in the polls, six-term Republican Congressman Mark Foley was found to have exchanged sexually explicit e-mails with a number of underage Congressional pages.

Foley soon resigned, with little time left before the November election, Mahoney was able to beat the new Republican candidate, State Rep. Joe Negron.

Mahoney’s infidelities are not the first time the Congressman has come under fire from critics. In early September, the newspaper Roll Call reported that Mahoney did not actually live in his district, but had registered his mailing address to a structure that was later found to be a barn.

While Florida law does not actually require an elected official to live in the district they represent, Mahoney was accused of benefiting from a residency tax exception, amounting to a savings of about $4,000.

Key Figure: Tim Mahoney

Sworn into office in January 2007, Mahoney was a technology entrepreneur and rancher in Florida’s 16th District, which includes Palm Springs. He attended West Virginia University, earning a B.A. in Computer Science, followed by an MBA at George Washington University. While his predecessor in Congress, Mark Foley, was a Democrat until he switched parties shortly before being elected, Mahoney was a lifelong Republican before switching to the Democratic Party in 2004.

Related Topic: Mahoney’s divorce

By filing for divorce, Tammy Mahoney differs from other political wives caught up in the misdeeds of their significant others. From Silda Spitzer to Hillary Clinton, political spouses have often stood by their men, attending press conferences and answering questions about their future, despite often humiliating circumstances.

Tammy Mahoney decided against this course of action and filed for divorce.

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