Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel said Friday he is resigning following reports that he would belittle and make suggestive remarks to women which created a hostile workplace environment.
His tenure at the helm of the state’s party did not last a year, and his resignation will be formally submitted early next week.
Judy Mount, the state party’s current vice chair, will take on chair duties in an interim role. On Dec. 9, the party’s State Executive Committee will elect Bittel’s successor.
Allison Tant, the state party’s former chairwoman, told Florida Politics that at least seven women came to her to complain about the inappropriate and demeaning behavior they endured during his tenure. Tant said numerous women left their jobs because of his behavior.
“When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside,” Bittel said in a statement.
Bittel, a millionaire South Florida developer, apologized for his behavior and did not deny the accounts of six unnamed women who called him “creepy” and “demeaning” in a POLITICO Florida report.
“I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party,” Bittel said.
After Bittel announced he was stepping down, fellow Democrats and current staffers lauded the decision and also called for the state party to review it sexual harassment policy to avoid incidents like this in the future.
One woman, who asked Florida Politics to not include her name for fear of losing her job, said she avoided him at all costs in the workplace after witnessing his behavior with other women. She said that him being out is a “mission accomplished.”
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who recently cut fellow Democrat Al Franken from appearing at a campaign fundraiser for allegedly sexually harassing and groping a radio anchor, said Bittel stepping aside was “for the good of the party.”
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Bittel’s is not a political issue, but rather a societal one.
“The harassment that women endure on a daily basis is a serous, systemic problem and it must stop,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Stephen Bittel did the right thing for the part, one that he’s worked so hard for in the past. But as a party and as a society, we must learn from this.”
Florida Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy condemned Bittel’s behavior and said his resignation was “appropriate.”
“We’ve worked too hard to advance workplace equality for women to feel unsafe at work,” Murphy said in a tweet.