How Florida’s 18th district is fraught with a history of sex scandals

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Republican Congressman Brian Mast, who was accused last week of making inappropriate Facebook comments about sex with 15-year-old girls, is just the latest in a long line of congressmen and candidates of both parties in Florida‘s 18th U.S. House District t entangled in scandalous behavior. 

There’s more than one reason  the 18th, where both Democrats and Republicans have successfully vied for office, is known as a ‘swing district.’

The 18th District, which stretches along the Atlantic Ocean coastline from the northern party of affluent Palm Beach County to impoverished Fort Pierce 70 miles north, has been the playground of politicians who’ve had more on their minds than bettering the lives of constituents for two decades.

‘The district tends to invite people who are not from the area to run for office,’ said Rick Asnani, a West Palm Beach political consultant. ‘It’s a highly competitive district, a Republican district where Democrats believe they can pick up a seat.

‘It’s often one of the most expensive races in the country, so both parties try to line up what they believe is the right talent.’

Sometimes, however, expeditious political moves have thrust flawed individuals into office.

Florida's 18th District has been the playground of politicians involved in illicit sex scandals and violence for two decades. It stretches along the Atlantic Ocean coastline from the northern part of affluent Palm Beach County to impoverished Fort Pierce 70 miles north

Florida’s 18th District has been the playground of politicians involved in illicit sex scandals and violence for two decades. It stretches along the Atlantic Ocean coastline from the northern part of affluent Palm Beach County to impoverished Fort Pierce 70 miles north

Brian Mast, a Florida congressman, made comments about rape and sex with children on Facebook that were exposed last week

Brian Mast, a Florida congressman, made comments about rape and sex with children on Facebook that were exposed last week 

The comment, made in 2009 on his campaign manager's photo, has now been deleted

The comment, made in 2009 on his campaign manager’s photo, has now been deleted

Last week, the 40-year Michigan-born Mast was accused of making grossly inappropriate comments on Facebook that could come back to haunt him as he heads into a heated November election against Democratic candidate Pam Keith, a black woman who, like Mast, is a military veteran.

Father-of-four Mast’s posts date back to 2009 and 2011, before he entered politics as he served in the U.S. Army.

Rick Asnani, a West Palm Beach political consultant, said it is a highly competitive district where expeditious political moves have thrust flawed individuals into office, both Democrat and Republican

Rick Asnani, a West Palm Beach political consultant, said it is a highly competitive district where expeditious political moves have thrust flawed individuals into office, both Democrat and Republican

They appeared on the Facebook page of Rocco LeDonni, a long-time friend who became Mast’s trusted campaign advisor.

In February 2009, the spelling-challenged Mast commented as LeDonni was headed for a trip to South Africa: ‘I’m so proud of you … i hope you hook up with at least fifteen 15 year olds over there … its legel there right.’

LeDonni asked in a May 20, 2011, post: ‘Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?’

From his bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he recovered from an explosion that blew up his legs in Afghanistan, Mast responded: ‘How about don’t turn this rape into a murder.’

The posts were visible earlier last week but taken down after news reporters began questioning Mast’s campaign team about them.

A rising star in the Republican party who often boasts moderate opinions on the environment while supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda, Mast apologized for the posts and partly blamed them on the dark times in his life.

‘A decade ago, when I was in the Army, and following my injury, I made disgusting and inappropriate jokes that I am embarrassed to have associated with my name today,’ he said. ‘I am sorry about that part of who I was, and I strive every day to be a better example for my kids.’

The 2011 comments were made while he recovered from losing both his legs in an explosion. The 2009 comments about South Africa came more than a year before Mast was injured in Kandahar.

Mast, a strong supporter of the president, is pictured with Donald Trump on Air Force One. He lost both his legs after stepping on a roadside bomb while serving in the military

Mast, a strong supporter of the president, is pictured with Donald Trump on Air Force One. He lost both his legs after stepping on a roadside bomb while serving in the military 

He was on patrol on September 19, 2010, when he inadvertently stepped on a roadside bomb while crossing a bridge.

Critics, however, often point out Mast has capitalized on voters’ sympathy factor for his handicap. Mast appears at public functions wearing shorts underneath a coat-and-tie that emphasize two impressive black prosthetics.

Mast has defended his wardrobe choices, saying he chose shorts because the sharp edges on the prosthetics cut through long pants when he falls.

But political consultant Asnani thinks Mast’s Facebook comment, even if they were made in jest years ago, could hurt Mast’s chances to win a third term.

‘With everything that’s been happening, the #metoo movement and social unrest, voters have become very sensitive,’ said Asnani, who specializes in municipal elections is not involved currently with federal elections.

‘Brian has a strong hold on the district, but voters might not be as tolerant and forgiving as they once were.’

The 18th District sex curse, however, started long before Mast won his first term in the 2016 election.

Mark Foley was considered a front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, but that campaign ended soon after he was outed as a gay man in 2003

Mark Foley was considered a front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, but that campaign ended soon after he was outed as a gay man in 2003

In 2006 it was revealed he had sent sexual messages to teenage male interns. Foley (right) is pictured with Rep Jim McCrery

In 2006 it was revealed he had sent sexual messages to teenage male interns. Foley (right) is pictured with Rep Jim McCrery 

It started with Mark Foley.

Revered by many of the district’s 750,000 affluent mostly white voters, the impeccably dressed 65-year-old Republican served in Washington through five terms starting in 1995.

Flawless when it came to constituent services, the moderate Republican found accomplices in the mainstream media to hide the fact he was gay and living with a man through most of his time in D.C.

At one point, Foley was considered a front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, but that campaign ended soon after the South Florida alternative weekly New Times outed him in 2003.

Foley continued to push legislation pertaining to child porn and sexual offenses. He advocated abstinence as an alternative to abortion.

On September 28, 2006, however, ABC News first reported Foley,took to emailing inappropriate sexual messages to teenage male interns – at times while on the floor of the House of Representatives – who worked for the House as couriers or gofers.

One email from his AOL account asked a page to send Foley a photo of himself.

Hours after the story broke, another page claimed Foley had sent him sexually explicit instant messages about penises and a sex act.

Eventually, more pages came out of the woodwork to claim Foley’s inappropriate conduct started soon after he was first elected while House leaders ignored their complaints.

Foley resigned under pressure from the then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, another Republican who eventually was accused of abusing high school boys.

But Foley denied having sex with anyone underage and declared he was not a pedophile.

He then checked into an in-patient rehab center after saying that he was drunk when he wrote many of the offending emails, came out as gay and said he’d been abused by a priest when he was an altar boy.

The pages’ allegations led to a two-year investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that was closed in September 2008 without criminal charges against Foley.

Investigators said their probe was stymied by Foley’s refusal that they conduct forensic analysis of the computers he used as a congressman.

Foley is now a successful real estate investor struggling with prostate cancer who had reappeared on the local political landscape to very few complaints.

Democratic businessman Tim Mahoney (right) won the congressional seat in 2006 before being forced to admit to 'multiple affairs'

Democratic businessman Tim Mahoney (right) won the congressional seat in 2006 before being forced to admit to ‘multiple affairs’

His platform mentioned faith, family and personal responsibility, but he failed to mention his mistress problem which ended his marriage after 23 years

His platform mentioned faith, family and personal responsibility, but he failed to mention his mistress problem which ended his marriage after 23 years 

Democratic businessman Tim Mahoney won the congressional seat vacated by Foley in 2006 with a clear mandate to regain the trust of constituents.

His platform mentioned faith, family and personal responsibility.

The very married Mahoney, however, turned out to have a mistress problem.

As he cruised to an easy election victory for a second term, Mahoney was forced to admit to ‘multiple affairs’ with women as his wife of 23 years filed for divorce.

One paramour was identified as a congressional staffer who was fired and threatened to sue Mahoney for sexual harassment.

Mahoney eventually agreed to pay her $121,000 to stop her from filing after then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Democrat who went on to become President Barack Obama’s chief of staff then mayor of Chicago, confronted Mahoney about the rumor.

What Emanuel likely didn’t know is that Mahoney was also having an affair with a legislative liaison employed by Martin County, one of the district’s three counties that depended on Mahoney for federal funding for things like hurricane cleanup.

The woman was suspended for three days without pay by the county’s administration for failing to report she was dating Mahoney, thus creating a conflict of interest.

Voters, meanwhile, punished Mahoney weeks later by handing Republican Tom Rooney, a grandson of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., a come-from-behind victory.

In the fall of 2012, conservative firebrand Allen West was cruising to an apparent victory when accusations of misogyny started plaguing him

In the fall of 2012, Conservative firebrand Allen West was cruising to an apparent victory in the 18th District against little-known Democrat Patrick Murphy when accusations of misogyny started plaguing West.

A retired Army battalion commander once accused of overseeing the beating of a policeman in Iraq during an interrogation session, West was then a rookie congressman serving a district in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

But as he prepared for battle in the 18th District, which he saw as friendlier to him, West tangled horns with then-Democratic Party leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz, once calling her ‘vile and despicable’ and adding: ‘You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!’

West tangled horns with then-Democratic Party leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz, once calling her 'vile and despicable

West tangled horns with then-Democratic Party leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz, once calling her ‘vile and despicable

And this was after West accused ‘Planned Parenthood women’ of ‘neutering’ American males. 

His lack of respect for his own wife Angela, however, is believed to have turned some District 18 voters against West just weeks before the election when a letter he hand-wrote to her from Iraq ended up published online.

In the letter, West told Angela Graham-West, a doctor in education who was then on the board of trustees of Florida Atlantic University, that he expected sex acts with a body part not necessarily designed for sex as soon as he got back from the war, and that the acts would be ‘the standard and it is non-negotiable.’

‘Angela, I need to know, are you committed to being my porn star?’ West wrote in his letter in one of the cleaner passages. ‘I do not want to hear ‘no’ or ‘we’ll see about that.’ I want my fantasies to be with you. God has authorized you and you only as my partner for intimacy and that is what I want.’

That November, West lost the election by just 2,429 votes, and bowed out of politics.

‘The district seems to attract some strange candidates,’ said Lynn Aronberg, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader who was political director of the losing campaign of multi-millionaire Democrat businessman Randy Perkins against Mast in 2016. ‘Voters know the seat is extremely important and some may be OK voting in people like Tim Mahoney for as long as their party wins.’

‘I worked against Mast and I know personally some members of his crew, and I can say it seems like they’ve had a frat house atmosphere in that campaign.’

Not only did Mast advisor Rocco LeDonni participate in the offending social media exchanges and didn’t think about erasing them, but Mast’s current deputy chief of staff has his own interesting history in the district.

Before he became a political appointee, Stephen Leighton was a Martin County Sheriff’s deputy who moonlighted as a model in nearby Miami.

Leighton also appeared to have a liking for the ladies in Sewall’s Point, an enclave for the ultra-rich.

Before he became a political appointee, Stephen Leighton (pictured) was a Martin County Sheriff's deputy who moonlighted as a model in nearby Miami and was caught in a domestic situation in 2006

Before he became a political appointee, Stephen Leighton (pictured) was a Martin County Sheriff’s deputy who moonlighted as a model in nearby Miami and was caught in a domestic situation in 2006

According to a 2006 police report obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com, Leighton was once caught in a domestic situation when a husband came home in the middle of the night and found Leighton in bed with his wife.

According to the report, the husband told police he came home early and first noticed a silver Impala he didn’t recognize in the driveway. Once inside, he told cops he found a pair of pants on the floor and started walking through the house to find who they belonged to until he saw that the French doors leading to the balcony were wide open.

Police were called when the husband’s search turned into an argument with the wife. In time, the husband returned Leighton’s green uniform pants and cell phone to the sheriff’s office.

Leighton, according to the police report, also lost his sheriff ID and keys in his exit.

Police resolved the situation that night by convincing the wife to spend the night at a friend’s house until the husband cooled down.

But the irony of the story didn’t escape Lynn Aronberg.

‘These guys are actually in charge of a congressional office,’ Aronberg said. ‘I’m a Republican and I support Donald Trump. But even I wouldn’t vote for Brian after this.’

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