If Jack Latvala is guilty of even some of the tawdry allegations of sexual harassment and miscreant behavior detailed in a damning story about him about him in POLITICO Florida, he should be banished from Tallahassee as quickly as possible.
If he is guilty, it’s a given that his career in politics is finished. He should resign his seat in the state Senate in disgrace. He should go away. His campaign for Governor might as well shut down today.
Now comes the hard truth about these allegations: Even if the whole thing is, as Latvala claims, fabrication on a grand scale, it really doesn’t matter to his political fortunes.
Stories like this often become an avalanche that doesn’t stop until the ink dries on a letter of resignation.
His guilt will be presumed by many, if not most, of those who read and reacted to the original reporting.
He won’t have any way to prove the charges are wrong, if they are, and people in Tallahassee will have little appetite for further association with him. Money will dry up. Many people who were supporters will suddenly become unreachable.
It would have been preferable for the six women accusers quoted in the story to have been named, but I understand why they need anonymity. They have careers to think about, and being publicly associated with a story like this could have lasting personal and professional repercussions.
Latvala has screamed his innocence, but making people believe that is another matter. Absent concrete proof either way, truth can be what an individual wants it to be.
Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics reported on several women by name who say they never saw any of that kind of behavior from Latvala, and they worked closely with him for extended periods.
Even as Latvala’s defenders were lining up though, a chorus of condemnation was reaching deafening levels.
“Predators think they can obtain the outcomes they desire through intimidation. Jack always has,” political rival and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz told POLITICO.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a potential gubernatorial candidate, has called on Latvala to resign. The charges against him will be investigated by the Senate.
Latvala’s supporters have charged that the story is politically motivated, as if that matters. There is a much bigger story here than a political career.
The kind of honest-to-goodness sexual intimidation of which Latvala stands accused must be stomped out. It is never OK for anyone to use their position or power in such a way.
That brings us back to the beginning.
I don’t know for certain if Latvala did the things his accusers say, or if I should believe his denials. If you weren’t there, neither do you.
Here is what we all do know, though: Accusers are lining up with detailed stories, rivals are playing for keeps, and the headlines probably will keep coming. We’ve seen this type of story play out before, and it almost always ends the same way.