Mahoney Backs Out of Debate

Embroiled in controversy over his multiple affairs, Democratic Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney won't participate in today's debate with his Republican opponent.

Last night Mahoney's campaigned called the debate's sponsor, the nonpartisan Forum Club, and said that the congressman would only participate if there were no television crews at the event, said Gayle Pallesen, the organization's executive.

When Pallesen declined, she was told Mahoney would not attend.

"The role of our organization has always been to create an informed citizenry, and we've relied on media to take the candidates' words beyond our event," Pallesen said. "So we were not going to break with that tradition today or anytime."

A Mahoney spokesperson had no comment.

Mahoney had pledged to participate in the debate sponsored against challenger Tom Rooney before ABC News reported last week that he had paid a former mistress $120,000 to prevent a sexual harassment lawsuit and helped another county official with whom he was having an affair win a federal grant for her agency. Though Mahoney admitted last week to having "multiple affairs," he said he has broken no laws and plans to stay in the race.

Despite Mahoney's withdrawl from today's debate, Pallesen said the event will go on -- with an empty seat at front for Mahoney.

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