When Republican Mark Foley left Congress just before the 2006 election, it was resignation driven by scandal: the South Florida congressman had been caught sexting teenage boys.
More than a decade later, Foley received a warm welcome from South Florida Republicans, “who admire his political skills, applaud his community service, and like his support for President Donald Trump,” according to a 2019 report by the Sun Sentinel.
At the August Palm Beach County Republican Party Lobsterfest dinner, Foley apologized once again to his party for the embarrassment caused by his scandal — which resulted in no criminal charges following an FBI investigation.
“I’m sorry for causing the party embarrassment,” he said. “I want to thank all the friends in this room, particularly those who stood by me in some of my darkest hours.”
The scandal brought into the open that Foley suffered an alcohol addiction, for which he sought treatment after leaving office, and also suffered childhood sexual abuse by a priest.
The former lawmaker also came out as gay, though the Sentinel said Foley’s sexual orientation was something of an open secret in both South Florida and Washington, D.C.
At the 2019 Lobsterfest, “Foley was lionized, and presented with the only award given out at the dinner, for community service.”
Though Foley had not entirely ruled out a return to public service at the time, he indicated that a future run is not likely in the cards.
“That ship’s kind of sailed. I’m 65 this September, next month,” he said. “As I sail into the sunset I think about life. And I’ve thought about it, no question. I’m not denying that I’ve thought maybe there’s a chance to get back in and serve in Congress, but as time goes on, I start getting less and less animated towards that conversation,” he said.
The Sentinel noted that Foley’s support in South Florida did not necessarily spread to Washington, D.C., where his name is still associated with scandal — making any future run for office a likely longshot for the disgraced Republican.