Foley scandal bad timing for Colorado GOP |

Foley scandal bad timing for Colorado GOP

— The unfolding congressional sex scandal involving House pages couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Colorado GOP, as absentee ballots are being mailed out early next week.

When voters start casting early ballots, many will have images of Republicans scrambling to answer questions about former Rep. Mark Foley’s salacious exchanges with high-school-aged pages still fresh in their minds.

Experts say Republican Reps. Bob Beauprez and Marilyn Musgrave may have the most to lose if voters have negative feelings toward the Republican Party. Beauprez faces a competitive race in his bid for governor, while Musgrave is facing a tough challenge in her bid for re-election.

“It’s just a disaster for the Republicans,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “It broke any momentum Republicans had.”

Colorado Democrats began calling on the Republicans to denounce GOP leaders just days after news broke that some in the party may have known for a year or more of a congressman’s inappropriate relationship with House pages.

“Will Musgrave continue to cover up Foley sex scandal?” challenged one news release from Musgrave’s Democratic opponent Angie Paccione, who has sent out several similar statements.

But both Musgrave and Beauprez have opted to stay quiet, issuing statements calling Foley’s behavior reprehensible and saying only that they support a “thorough investigation” to determine whether anyone broke the law.

Experts say the smartest approach for the Republicans is to denounce Foley and change the subject.

Foley resigned abruptly last week after his sexually explicit electronic exchanges with former pages were made public. Since then, the FBI and the House ethics committee have begun looking into what the Republican Party leaders knew about Foley.

Most voters don’t know who House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is and don’t care much when Republican leaders knew about Foley’s messages. They just want to make sure their elected officials don’t support Foley’s behavior, said Kenneth Bickers, a political scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Many voters likely will add the scandal to the list of things that make them unhappy with the Republican Party, however. That includes the Iraq war and various campaign finance scandals.

“The effect is likely to be (decreased) enthusiasm among voters for voting for any Republican or frankly for anybody in Washington,” Bickers said.

Democratic incumbents might also be hurt by decreased turnout, experts said. But since most of Colorado’s Democratic House members are not in competitive races, the Republicans are in tougher shape.

Experts predicted that voters who make decisions on “values” issues, could be most likely to be turned off by the Foley scandal.

For other voters, who want a change in Washington, they will get a chance to take action soon. In addition to absentee ballots, which are being mailed out now, early voting begins on Oct. 23.

In 2004, 48 percent of ballots in Colorado were cast before Election Day.

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