The powerful chair of the Florida Senate Budget committee is running for the GOP nomination for governor amidst allegation from six women who work in the Florida Capitol.
Politico Florida reported Friday that the women include staff and lobbyists affiliated with both parties, alleging incidents over years from Sen. Jack Latvala.
“I’m sure that you have handpicked people and you are going to let anonymous people have this kind of impact on the career of a guy who has been there for 16 years,” Sen. Latvala claimed. “I’ve never had a complaint filed against me.”
“Govern yourself accordingly,” he ominously warned a Politico Florida reporter.
“It was so disgusting and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one lobbyist for a Republican firm said. “The question isn’t whether this happened to me. The question is who this didn’t happen to in the Capitol. It’s not like it’s a secret that Jack is like this.”
One Republican elected official even went on record about Sen. Latvala.
“He’s a hound. I mean, everyone in Tallahassee knows that Jack Latvala is an absolute hound,” said Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “Jack believes that his power as a legislator gives him some special power with women. And, there are times when it’s clearly unrequited.”
Congressman Gaetz is the son of former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz.
These allegations come against the backdrop of last week’s abrupt resignation of state Sen. Jeff Clemens, who was one of Latvala’s closest allies.
Tallahassee has been on edge after state Sen. Oscar Braynon discovered a covert surveillance camera recording legislators and lobbyists at the Tennyson condominium.
Photos also circulated in Tallahassee showing Latvala kissing a female lobbyist.
One rumor mentioned by Politico is that the private investigators may have been hired by former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who was ousted from the state Senate after being caught using the n-word in a conversation with two black legislators.
On Thursday, Sen. Latvala lashed out at House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a fellow Republican who is also expected to run for Governor.
The political jabs have been flying all week.
“Today there has been a news report alleging that members of the Senate Professional Staff and visitors to the Senate offices were sexually assaulted. These allegations are atrocious and horrendous. As Senate President, my first priority is the safety of our staff and visitors,” Florida Senate President Joe Negron said in a Friday evening statement. “The Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or misconduct of any kind and takes this issue with the utmost seriousness. Any allegation will be immediately and fully investigated.”
Yet that didn’t go far enough for state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee.
“Today’s allegations reported against Senator Jack Latvala are appalling and disgusting. There is no explanation or rationalization which could ever account for this type of behavior and there should be no room for it in our Legislature or in society as a whole. I call on President Joe Negron to immediately remove Senator Latvala from his role as Appropriations Chair,” Rep. Moskowitz demanded. “Additionally, I call on Speaker Richard Corcoran to tell the Senate that the House will refuse to go into budget conference with Senator Latvala in that position.”
Florida Senate President Joe Negron says he has 0 tolerance for sex harassment. But doesn’t heed calls to remove Sen accused by SIX women of harassment. And appoints, staff say, a friend of @JackLatvala to investigate him pic.twitter.com/iN4MAjHp5W
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 3, 2017
One Florida Republican has already demanded Sen. Latvala step down.
— Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) November 3, 2017
“There are other senators, male and female, who I hug and kiss on the cheek on a regular basis, but they’ve never touched the places on my body where only my bikini touches,” one fellow Republican explained to Politico Florida.
In 2015, Raw Story reported on a budget amendment by Sen. Latvala which allowed tax breaks for yacht owners who spend more than $1 million on boat repairs.