While Ann Romney lavished praises on her would-be president husband Mitt Romney on the stage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa last night, former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley worked a different kind of crowd a few miles east.
The Lake Worth native, 57, who represented on Capitol Hill a district that stretched from Palm Beach to St. Lucie counties for 11 years, mingled with partygoers at the gay Republicans’ wingding.
Thrown by GOProud, a group of gay conservatives, and dubbed Homocon, No Ordinary Song and Dance, the shindig quickly became a major convention event.
More than 1,000 people bellied up to the open bar at The Honey Pot, a gay/lesbian/transvestite nightclub in the heart of Tampa’s Ybor City entertainment district.
For Foley, it was a return to national politics of sorts.
In 2006, Foley was cruising to another election victory when he abruptly resigned after blue text messages to young male Congressional pages surfaced on the web. He came under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for months, but no charges of improper sex were filed.
Now a real estate investor who considered a run for mayor of West Palm Beach, Foley says he didn’t consider making the drive to Tampa until late last week. He relented because “they kept asking.”
Republican and gay aren’t usually side by side in a sentence. The GOP’s platform includes anti-gay marriage measures.
But, says Foley, that doesn’t make Republicans hateful toward homosexuals.
“They’re not hateful,” said Foley, whose longtime partner, Palm Beach dermatologist Layne Nisenbaum died earlier this year. “They (Republicans) just have a different world view. I was incredibly well treated by the party’s leadership.”
Foley did at Homocon what he always did in political situations: slap backs, take photos with fans and answer questions about politics.
“This party is a little in-your-face since it’s so close to the convention and all,” Foley said. “It was a little much calling it Homocon. But some people need to be forced into having a conversation about basic human rights.”
In another corner, tax crusader Grover Norquist looked out of place with his Ward Cleaver suit and June Cleaver wife. A conservative’s conservative, Norquist said he made a point to stop by. Straight-laced Norquist is actually on GOProud’s board.
“It’s a marvelous party,” Norquist said. “I’m generally supportive of their efforts.”
Outside The Honey Pot, meanwhile, a dozen protesters held signs telling those inside the repent. Several were issued trespass tickets and sent on their way.