Seats Up for Grabs
A move away from partisan politics is stroking heated congressional battles and spelling trouble for incumbents across Florida. Here's a roundup.
Tim Mahoney [D]
Gayle Harrell [R]
Tom Rooney [R]
Incumbent: Tim Mahoney (D)
District: Parts of Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties
Background: Republicans are campaigning hard to try to unseat Mahoney, the Palm Beach Gardens Democrat elected in 2006 with a 2% margin of victory. Mahoney, a financial services executive and rancher, replaced Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned in 2006 when it was revealed that he had sent sexually explicit instant messages to a congressional page. Republicans are eager to reclaim the seat in the Republican-leaning district, where President Bush won with 54% of the vote in 2004.
Three Republicans are vying for the chance to take on Mahoney, including state Rep. Gayle Harrell, a former teacher, community activist and self-proclaimed “Reagan Republican” from Stuart; Tom Rooney, a lawyer and former Army captain who is the son of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney; and Hal Valeche, a Palm Beach Gardens city councilman and former Navy pilot who flew 85 combat missions in Vietnam.
Harrell, who benefits from her name recognition, and Rooney, who has considerable connections, are already emerging as the front-runners in the GOP primary.
Democratic leaders in Congress have given Mahoney high-profile committee assignments to boost his advantage as an incumbent. But Harrell, who is getting a boost in her bid from former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt, is already attacking Mahoney as an out-of-touch liberal who voted for the largest tax increase in history. Mahoney, meanwhile, is touting his conservative Democrat credentials. In Congress, he’s a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 47 moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers. He’s so moderate, in fact, that he landed in the dead center of National Journal’s 2007 congressional vote ratings — with 214 members ranked more conservative and 214 more liberal based on their voting records.