As if the lurid instant messages of former Republican Congressman Mark Foley weren't bad enough news for Republicans this year, now comes a second Republican scandal, this one involving local Republican candidate Hugh Foskett. Just like the sordid scandal in the other Washington, Foskett-gate involves the internet, alcohol, and a bunch of young, attractive men. And just like the Foley scandal, it's proving embarrassing for a party that prides itself on buttoned-up behavior and "moral values." But unlike the Foley affair, this one doesn't seem to be producing any talk of resignations or investigations—yet.
Perhaps that's not surprising, given that some believe the shocking (and apparently drunken) Facebook.com pictures of Foskett, uncovered this week by The Stranger, might actually help the University of Washington sophomore in his race for the state house. After all, he's running against goody-two-shoes Democrat Jamie Pedersen and holier-than-thou Progressive Party candidate Linde Knighton in Seattle's ultra-liberal 43rd District (which covers much of downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, the University District, and Wallingford). If young voters in the district are looking for someone who reflects their values, their lifestyle, and their ability to shotgun beers, Foskett may be an alluring choice.
One of the scandalous images shows Foskett—who says on his Facebook page that he's "Interested In: Women" and "Looking For: Whatever I can get"—apparently drunk and groping a male companion's genital area. Another image shows Foskett dressed as a sailor and saluting handsomely. In another, he's sitting barely clothed in a mountain hot spring with two other men, one of whom is proudly showing off his pecs.
Democrat Bill Sherman, who went to great lengths to court the 43rd's gay vote during his failed primary run, said he was awed by Foskett's shrewdness at pandering to the homo constituency. He said Foskett's methods far exceeded his own karaoke campaign event in a lesbian bar. "This guy's way past me," Sherman said. "I'm impressed."
Sherman also said that Foskett's photos were making him reevaluate his own messaging—especially given that he came in only about 5 percentage points behind Pedersen.
"I'll always have to ask: Should I have put on the sailor suit? Would that have made the difference?" Sherman lamented. "That will haunt me for months, I'm sure."
Pedersen said he was concerned that the Foskett revelations could hurt his own chances with the rude-boy demographic and the 0.17 BAC set. One photo shows Foskett giving the finger to the camera; another shows him glassy-eyed and holding a mouth full of smoke; and another shows him puking while wearing a sombrero. "There go my chances of getting The Stranger's endorsement for the general election," Pedersen said.
The state Republican Party did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Foskett-gate. Neither did Foskett, nor did the campaign of Mike McGavick, which has some experience in dealing with fallout from youthful drinking binges. The silence of prominent Republicans leaves several large questions unanswered: Did the party of piety and law-and-order know about Foskett's wild side? Did it pay his filing fee anyway? Was there a cover-up to prevent the public from learning about Foskett's crotch-grabbing and his impersonating a military officer?
While these questions swirled, State Representative Ed Murray, whose decision to vacate the 43rd District house seat set up this race, tried valiantly to make sure the scandal becomes a liability for Foskett and the Republicans.
"This is someone whom the Republicans actively recruited in the 43rd?" asked an incredulous Murray, who endorsed Pedersen in the primary. "Once again we see the true hypocrisy of Republican values."