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Negron's campaign, meanwhile, will have to spend less time going after Mahoney and considerably more effort educating the district's voters about the strange electoral situation ahead. Palm Beach County G.O.P. Chairman Sid Dinerstein says the party is gearing up a major campaign of direct mail and polling place signs, and he believes he can still count on the party's base. "As a party we're still motivated," Dinerstein insists, but admitted that the "anti-Foley backlash" will be a large obstacle. Negron says his most important task will be to remind G.O.P. voters "to vote Republican" and not anti-Foley. "I think voters are pretty smart and pretty sophisticated, and I think they can figure [this situation] out."
As a result, both Negron and Mahoney say they hope to run as normal a race as possible which, these days, may well mean the same mudslinging and attack ads that will characterize most other House contests. Mahoney had already taken Foley to court for defamation over an ad that accused Mahoney of questionable business practices; and Mahoney had countered by calling on Foley to "disclose how he became a millionaire as an elected official." Negron this week pounced on last weekend's visits from star Dems to insist Mahoney is just a liberal in disguise. "The voters of District 16," he said, "don't want a Congressman who's been hanging out with John Kerry." That may be true. But the question is whether voters will want to stay even further away from the alternative, a party that is too closely tied to Mark Foley.
with reporting by Barbara Liston/Orlando and Michael Peltier/Tallahassee