Republican Tom Rooney says his quest to regain for his party the seat that former Rep. Mark Foley lost in a sex scandal will remain focused on issues instead of another sex scandal surrounding his opponent.
The Republican leanings of Florida’s 16th Congressional District already had favored Rooney, and his chances skyrocketed with the revelation of Democratic incumbent Tim Mahoney’s sexual affairs, one of which has led to an FBI investigation of an alleged hush-money payoff to a mistress and her lawyer. Ironically, Mahoney had toppled Foley partly with a vow of returning family values to Washington.
Rooney, however, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview that he will not exploit Mahoney’s difficulties arising after he recently acknowledged at least two affairs and his wife filed for divorce.
Rooney said his opponent’s personal conduct is off limits.
“We’ve managed to stay out of that, and I’m going to continue to do that,” said Rooney, who with his wife, Tara, has three sons: Tom Jr., Sean, and Seamus.
Newsmax asked Rooney, a member of the famed and extended Rooney family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, how his campaign is going.
Rooney: It is going well. We're working very hard, I’ve got a great staff, most of them have been with me for the past year and a half and it's been a very, very long road, but winning a close primary and regrouping and trying to raise the funds needed to be up on TV and keeping up with the ground team, which is why I won the primary.
We've got 12 days left, so we keep working as hard as we can until we are through the finish line.
NewsMax: “How is John McCain faring now in your district, which I know is heavily Republican, and how much is that going to affect your campaign?
He's faring well, according to our latest poll — he’s up on Obama. We need McCain supporters to come out. So the fact that he's closing in the polls right now is very good news for us. Hopefully he can keep that momentum up, and if we take care of our own business, we should be looking good on Election Day.
NewsMax: What are the primary issues in your campaign?"
My military background is important. I spent four and a half years on active duty in the Army and a couple of years in the inactive reserve, and my wife was also a captain in the Army, so my first goal in Washington would be to try to get on the Armed Services Committee to make sure that we’re doing everything we can for our troops.
Secondly, obviously gas prices are a major concern for people, but lately more than ever, as my grandfather used to say, people in the end vote with their pocketbooks and the economy is the number one issue. A lot of the problem, I think, stems from the fact that our taxes have been low while the government has gotten way too big and spending has gotten way out of control . . . And that's the kind of conservative Republican camp that I come from.
You can't have spending, where it's been lately, and expect the economy to do well. I don't think the answer is to blame George Bush for everything and therefore we need to go to the left and even bigger government. That's the wrong answer. If I have one critique of the president it would be that the government grew way too big.
NewsMax: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was born in Pennsylvania, but we moved down to Florida when I was in ninth grade. I grew up in northern Palm Beach County, after college I went to work for Senator Connie Mack, then I went to graduate school at the University of Florida and law school at the University of Miami, and that's where I met my wife.
Together we went into the army at Fort Hood, Texas, and then West Point, New York, where I taught constitutional and criminal law. I was a prosecutor down at Fort Hood before that and then I went to work for then-Attorney General [and now Governor] Charlie Crist as a prosecutor here in Palm Beach County.
I was the CEO of a shelter for abused children called ‘Home Safe’ for two years, a 50-bed shelter. We had a shelter in Boca Raton for infant children and one shelter in Lantana and one in Lake Worth and another in West Palm Beach.
Then I went into private practice, but shortly thereafter Mark Foley resigned, Joe Negron came very close to beating Mahoney and after the election when Joe Negron said he wasn't going to run again put my name in the hat.
NewsMax: When you get to Washington, are you prepared for an overwhelmingly Democratic House of Representatives and all the disadvantages that implies?
I understand the obstacles that we're going to be facing but I just come from the standpoint that if you don't like the way that [the way that things are], you have to stand up for what you believe in, and I know that I might be in a minority, but that's certainly going to be [how I will conduct myself].
I also believe that I have to work across party lines to try and get as much as I can accomplish working with Democrats. One of the big issues is that people really are sick of the partisanship but that doesn't mean sacrificing your values. It just means not operating with a completely us-versus-them mentality. I think the people are expecting something different.
Hopefully, we'll regroup and in 2010, we will get back to where we need to be.
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