GOP candidates lukewarm in Hastert support

Several Republican candidates in challenging races this fall said their support for Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) as the top House Republican in the 110th Congress will depend on the findings of an investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). 

Republicans Martha Rainville (Vt.), Rick O’Donnell (Colo.) and Peter Roskam (Ill.) would wait for the Justice Department to complete an investigation before deciding how to vote, said campaign aides.

“If Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales finds that anyone who holds elected office was aware of Mr. Foley’s inappropriate behavior, that person is not fit to serve the public and should be removed from office,” said O’Donnell’s spokesman.

However, Republicans will vote on leadership elections during the lame-duck session in November and will formally vote on the Speakership (should they retain the majority) at the start of the new Congress early next year. In all likelihood, the Gonzales investigation will still be ongoing.

Based on the information available, state Sen. Ray Meier (R-N.Y.) said he would support Hastert. Other candidates like Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), who is running for his father’s seat, avoided the issue.

“We have no stance on that right now — we’ll worry about that after we win,” said Bilirakis.

In a statement, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, “I will not vote for any leader who knew or should have known about Mark Foley’s conduct.”

Randy Graf, who is running for GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe’s seat in Arizona, said Hastert has been helpful to his campaign and did not want to speculate about what might happen.

“When I get to D.C., I’ll sit down with the House leadership and discuss who deserves to be Speaker,” he said.

Meanwhile, GOP incumbents continue to distance themselves from their leaders. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) cancelled an event with Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.) cancelled an event with Hastert. Reps. Lewis, Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) declined to comment about whether they would vote for Hastert.

Brad Haynes and Cameron Joseph contributed to this article.