<!--:es-->Disaffected Republicans may sit out vote following Foley scandal<!--:-->

Disaffected Republicans may sit out vote following Foley scandal

WASHINGTON – A roiling sex scandal that led to the resignation of a prominent Republican lawmaker has left the party fearing conservative voters may sit out next month’s crucial midterm elections, as President George W. Bush said he was “disgusted” by the affair.

Bush said he supported House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s call for a law enforcement probe into the e-mails and text messages sent by US Representative Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) to young, male congressional pages.

“I was dismayed and shocked to learn about Congressman Foley’s unacceptable behavior,” Bush said during a visit at an elementary school in Stockton, California.

The shocking revelations that the veteran Republican lawmaker sexually harassed underage congressional aides before resigning in disgrace last week could leave many conservatives feeling like they might not want to go to the polls, and could be the tipping point that returns control of Congress to opposition.

Conservative voters, who often are moved to turn out in force at the polls to vote on “values issues” such as abortion and banning gay marriage, reportedly are disgusted by the news.

Joe Negron, chosen by Florida’s Republican leaders to replace Foley on the ballot, conceded that it might be an uphill fight to hold onto voters in his district, although he is holding out hope that he can convince voters to stick with his party.

“Everyone in this district is shocked and angered by what happened,” Negron said.

“The system needs to work: let the chips fall where they may. If people knew about this in Congress and didn’t take appropriate steps, they need to be held accountable,” he told Fox television.

“I’m asking voters to give me a chance.”

The conservative Washington Times newspaper on Tuesday said Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House of Representatives should follow Foley’s lead and relinquish his post for not being more proactive in preventing and punishing the lawmaker’s misbehavior.

“Resign, Mr Speaker,” blared The Times, saying Hastert “dissembled, to put it charitably,” before acknowledging that he had known for months that Foley had sent inappropriate e-mails to underage male aides.

“Either he was grossly negligent … or he deliberately looked the other way,” the daily charged.

Foley, a Republican who represents parts of tony Palm Beach county in Florida, abruptly resigned his seat Friday amid questions surrounding his sexually explicit e-mails to a former male page.

His resignation further jeopardizes an already endangered Republican majority in Congress, with Democrats favored to win the lion’s share of House seats in November’s midterm election according to many polls.

Foley had been favored to win reelection against Democratic challenger Tim Mahoney in the November 7 legislative contest.

He was known in Congress as a tireless champion of children’s rights, especially against abuse and sexual predators. He co-chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and recently introduced legislation to crack down on Internet child pornography sites.