Rookie state Rep. Bill Hager has tried his darnedest to keep his divorce on the down-low.
References to the Boca area Republican's wife of 33 years, Florida Atlantic University nursing instructor Dr. Beth King, were quietly wiped off his campaign website two weeks ago. Now, his online candidate bio makes it seem that King never existed and that the couple's two adult daughters are the products of immaculate conception.
His campaign staffers are tongue-tied when asked about the split, with campaign boss Tom Plante claiming: "It's to protect his daughters."
And Hager, 64, appeared not to know what I was talking about when I asked to interview him about the divorce at a campaign fundraiser Monday. He then walked away without answering.
But as Hager gears up to keep his District 87 seat in 2012, the split is bound to be talked
about among some GOP voters -- especially women.
Three GOP sources in Hager's entourage tell the Pulp that Hager was busted with an exotic-looking chickadee in her early 40s right after his first legislative session wound down. Hager reportedly was on business in New York City when a relative saw him in a tête-à-tête with the paramour.
Word got back to the wife in Boca, and the split was consummated as Hager, a lawyer who specializes in insurance laws, filed his petition in a Palm Beach Country court May 27. A former Boca city councilman whose goals at the state level include restoring the public's trust in politicians, Hager deemed the marriage "irretrievably broken" in the paperwork. He's asking the family court judge not to award financial support to the soon-to-be-ex, claiming she "earns significant income." He wants their $900,000 marital home sold and the equity split two ways. The couple also owns two beachside apartments, according to property records.
King didn't return calls. The couple's lawyers declined comment.
Palm Beach County GOP boss Sid Dinerstein, meanwhile, conceded that Hager's divorce comes at a bad time.
"I always tell candidates who ask me about running that they shouldn't get a divorce," Dinerstein said. "If there's a divorce, there are no longer any secrets." Dinerstein said he's concerned with how the philandering allegations will play with women voters, although not concerned enough to confront Hager.
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"Right now, I don't believe it's my business," Dinerstein said. "The fact people may have marital problems doesn't mean their work is compromised. Bill has been doing a terrific job in Tallahassee."
Dinerstein, however, shared this opinion: "It's crazy to me how people in politics lose their focus. Power is an aphrodisiac, but we send politicians to do a job, and that's all. We don't need any of this [extracurricular] stuff. If politicians are not really mature and self-confident in a healthy way, they're susceptible to becoming jerks."