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#1 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Chris Sprowls

As any observer of Florida politics will tell you, this 34-year-old Palm Harbor Republican is on the move.

First elected to House District 65 over Democratic incumbent Carl Zimmerman in 2014, Chris Sprowls had little difficulty getting re-elected in 2016 against Democrat Bernie Fensterwald. At this point, 2018 appears to be shaping up the same way. Sprowls currently serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and he’s eyeing the top spot in the House.

The former Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor is a likely (and favored) contender for the 2021-2022 House speakership.

That would be a huge deal for Pinellas, which hasn’t seen a representative ascend to the speakership since Democrat Peter Rudy Wallace held it in 1995.

Insiders say it’s not just his intelligence and savvy that got him here.

“Chris’s rise to leadership so quickly is a testament to the respect that members of both parties have in his unique ability to understand complex issues and forge a solution that is fair,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Chris Dudley.

Tampa businessman Akash Patel, a Republican running for Hillsborough County Commission District 7 said: “Chris has been a strong leader since I served with him on the Senate at Boy’s State when we were young.  He will continue to grow his leadership skills and will be one of the strongest House Speakers of our day.”

As a lawmaker, Sprowls has shown considerable muscle.

During the 2017 Session, he and Rep. James Grant shepherded a bill through the legislature that created a uniform statewide policy for ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. In 2018, Sprowls was a driving force behind an effort to secure funding for SPC and USF St. Petersburg, namely as a way to help students graduating with associate degrees from the former transition into higher degree programs at the latter — the aim being to help ensure local students will continue to have access to four-year and advanced degrees despite USF’s growing prestige. Conversely, he also backed the locally unpopular bill to pull all USF campuses under the same umbrella.

Outside Tallahassee, Sprowls earned praise earlier this year by convincing Citizens CEO Barry Gilway to personally visit a condominium complex in Sprowls’ district that had seen extensive sinkhole damage. The state insurer had previously refused to pay out on condo owners’ claims. As a result of Gilway’s visit, Citizens paid out at least $12.7 million to the affected homeowners.

Of course, whether Sprowls will hang on to all the clout hinges on the November election. Newcomer Alex Toth, a Palm Harbor entrepreneur and Air Force veteran, became Sprowls’ Democratic opponent in March. Sally Laufer, another Democrat, then filed in late May. Neither has shown significant fundraising, while Sprowls’ campaign has amassed nearly $151,000. A PAC that backs Sprowls, Floridians for Economic Freedom, has meanwhile taken in more than $1.1 million in contributions so far this election cycle.

Sprowls tops this year’s list after coming in ninth last year and No. 14 in 2016. He replaces former Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who dropped his bid for governor and resigned in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, suggesting what a difference a year (and a powerful movement like #MeToo) can make.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “A young man on a fast track. House Speaker in 2020, and after that opportunities could abound.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Southern Strategy Group lands Pinellas Co. lobbying contract

The Pinellas County Commission has selected Southern Strategy Group (SSG) to handle its lobbying needs in Tallahassee for the next two years.

SSG was one of several firms to respond to the Pinellas Commission’s call for contract proposals and, as reported last week, their pitch made the shortlist alongside Dean Mead and GrayRobinson.

Dean Mead had held the contract for years, and though they made the top three, it seems the writing was on the wall.

As one commissioner, who did not want to be named, earlier told Florida Politics: “Dean Mead sold their relationship with [former state Sen. Jack] Latvala to their advantage. With him gone, most likely so is their contract.”

While the choice was likely a smart one in a post-Latvala world, Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice said Thursday that the decision to move forward with another firm wasn’t easy.

“It was a tough decision. We appreciate the good work of Pete Dunbar and his team. I think the commission wanted to make the change to be more focused on the appropriations process. We look forward to working with Laura Boehmer and Seth McKeel to get the job done for Pinellas,” he said.

Southern Strategy Group, which is consistently among the top-grossing Florida lobbying firms, said it would represent Pinellas County for $158,000 in lobbying pay over the next two years. Dean Mead asked for $200,000 in pay and GrayRobinson asked for $144,000.

While GrayRobinson didn’t snag the Pinellas County gig this go around, they haven’t struck out on other county or municipal clients.

Their most recent lobbying compensation reports, also among the best in the state, showed they were the firm of choice among many municipal clients. Making their client roster were a half-dozen county governments and some of the largest metros in the state, including Miami-Dade County, Tampa and Orlando.

#12 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Janet Cruz

First elected to her Tampa state House seat in 2010, Janet Cruz served as House Minority Leader over the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. She’s the first Latina to serve in that capacity.

While Democratic leaders in the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature often have little influence, Cruz has managed to have some sway.

She has been effective at getting her party’s message across in the critical months leading up to the 2018 midterms.

When Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel was accused of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers in November 2017, Cruz was the first to issue a statement condemning his actions. Following a report dealing with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in the Capitol, namely against former Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Cruz said she was “horrified.”

At the start of the 2018 Session, Cruz also called out House Speaker Richard Corcoran on a bill targeting so-called sanctuary cities.

She’s terming out at the end of this year, but she’s far from finished.

In 2017, she announced a run for Hillsborough County Commission. But Cruz dropped that bid in April and then jumped into the race for state Senate District 18 against Sen. Dana Young, the incumbent Republican elected to the newly-drawn seat in 2016.

Cruz cited a desire to pass laws that may prevent mass shootings like the one that occurred in Parkland as a key reason for jumping in and criticized Young for missing three votes on amendments to the gun bill the legislature was debating earlier this year.

“I love our community and I am fed up with lawmakers who put the interests of the NRA, the for-profit school industry, and insurance companies before the people they represent,” Cruz said in a news release heralding her candidacy.

SD 18 went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but winning wouldn’t exactly be easy. For one, Young is a well-funded Republican incumbent with moderate sensibilities not too far off from those of the district, which runs from South Tampa up through northwestern Hillsborough County. Plus, some Democrats aren’t happy that her entrance into the race prompted Bob Buesing (who had also been Young’s Dem opponent in 2016) to exit.

Given her track record in the House — and her tendency to gravitate toward leadership roles, should she and a handful of fellow Democrats manage to flip the Senate in November, good things would likely be in store.

Cruz Rifkin climbed to No. 12 from the No. 19 spot last year.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “Probably could have easily won Hillsborough County Commission race, but Parkland massacre set her eye on Young’s Senate seat.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#24 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Chris Latvala

If anyone is the antithesis to the notion that Republicanism’s days are numbered, it’s state Rep. Chris Latvala. First elected to his north-central Pinellas district (House District 67) in 2014, he was just 32 when he took office.

Since then, he’s brought a fresh perspective to the Legislature and hasn’t been afraid to take positions that are unpopular to many of his fellow Republicans.

Take LGBTQ equality. In 2016, he co-sponsored a bill that would have outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill died, but Latvala’s drive to make change has not. He’s currently part of the group Conservatives on the Right Side of Equality, which consists of high-profile Republicans who are trying to get their party to embrace the LGBTQ community.

Like almost any coastal lawmaker, Latvala has supported a ban on drilling off Florida’s coasts. In his first term, he sponsored a bill banning backyard gun ranges in residential areas. He has bragged about his unfavorable NRA rating and probably didn’t lose any sleep over the tea party group South Pinellas 912 Patriots’ not endorsing him in 2016.

Yet Latvala is still very much a conservative, especially on fiscal and tax issues. He’s backed controversial education bills that promote charter schools. He sponsored a bill in 2017 that would have required felons and suspected drug users to take drug tests as a condition for receiving public aid. The list goes on.

One likely reason he’s not a party-line kind of guy: He listens to the people who live in his district.

“Resilient. Steady. Dependable. Chris has a keen focus on the needs of his constituents. He always makes sure Pinellas citizens are represented at the table in state policy decisions,” David Shepp of Southern Strategy Group said of Latvala.

Late last year, he made headlines for his fierce defense of his father, then-state Sen. Jack Latvala, whose career collapsed in light of sexual misconduct allegations. The ordeal was undoubtedly difficult for the younger Latvala, but in his work as a lawmaker (and as a candidate), he appears unfazed.

This year, Latvala, who qualified for the ballot by petition, is running for a third term. As of this writing, it’s unclear who his Democratic challenger will be, but the Dems appear to want to run a candidate against him. In 2016, he defeated Democrat David Vogel by 16 points.

Latvala did not make last year’s list.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Blake Dowling: All apologies

Last night, I was watching a Celtics game. Late in the half, during a timeout, there were back-to-back commercials — each a message of apology.

Wells Fargo was very sorry they created millions of fake accounts to cook the books; Facebook is very sorry about, I guess, lots of things.

Wells Fargo’s message was pretty clear, but the FB ad was a bit like a hurricane of messaging.

Bottom line, apologies are everywhere these days.

Or, maybe, are we a nation of apologists? Perhaps we have always been.

Are these nationwide campaigns helpful? Are they even necessary?

While Zuck was testifying to Congress and scandal after scandal was unfolding for his firm, meanwhile the company’s financials were skyrocketing, in fact, their first-quarter earnings for 2018 were up 60 percent over the same time last year.

All situations are unique, and maybe FB is bullet resistant (not bulletproof, mind you. No one is.) Its offering has integrated itself into the fabric of our personal and professional lives, and it is an extremely “sticky” company/offering to simply toss out the window.

Most of us are in professions where apologies are required and necessary. Think about KFC this year. They ran out of chicken. Ummm. Oops to the guy ordering the chicken.

You had ONE job, Daryl. 😊

How did they respond? With a pretty cheeky PR campaign.

How about politics? Apologies are welcome (it would seem) but a “there’s the door” approach appears to be the common end game. Plus, in situations last year involving state Sens. Jeff Clemens and Jack Latvala, we are not talking about creating fake bank accounts (or running out of chicken).

In these cases, more serious issues are at play. In the political world, once trust is broken and alleged bad behavior is exposed, it is much harder to get it back.

City of Tallahassee mayor? Apology.

More apologies in our state.

Joy Reid calls Charlie Crist “Miss Charlie.” Classy. Another apology.

Why are people apologizing so much these days? Doesn’t it seem as if apologies are rampant — money, data, sex (and chicken)?

Perhaps, the world of social media and our press focuses so much on those doing wrong and the apologies that come after.

Just a crazy thought: Maybe we should focus more on those business leaders and companies that are not apologizing for anything?

For example, Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership during recent hurricanes. No apology required. Thank you, sir.

Another is Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who are fighting the good fight for the people of Puerto Rico. Great job, guys, as 10 percent of this U.S. territory is still without power.

So, if my thoughts in this column have offended you in any way, email me at the address below. Perhaps I will send an apology. (HA!)

As my friend Brad Swanson likes to say, if you aren’t taking any flak, you aren’t on target.

Have a great weekend.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He enjoys sports, IPA’s and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

With Facebook page, Becca Tieder inches toward challenging Chris Latvala

Democrat Becca Tieder took another step toward challenging Clearwater Republican state Rep. Chris Latvala in House District 67.

Tieder, a Clearwater native and third-generation Floridian, has set up a Facebook political candidate page — @BeccaforFlorida — slated to “start May 1.”

According to DNS records, the domain name Becca4Florida.com has also been registered since March 28.

As Florida Politics reported earlier, House Victory and incoming Democratic leader Kionne McGhee confirmed the Florida Democratic Party is actively recruiting Teider to face Latvala, who will be seeking a third term in the Clearwater-area HD 67.

“If I run, it’s because I’m the best candidate for the seat. I’m not doing this for me — I have a great life,” Tieder, a mother of two, told reporters. “But if I feel like I can make a difference, I will run, and I will win.”

What did resonate was complaints of Tallahassee’s overreach, which included increased funding for charter schools.

“Charter schools serve a purpose, but not as a replacement for public schools,” she said; it was wrong to “give away so much of what feels like our — the public’s — responsibility.”

Tieder is active in the movement against sexual assault on college campuses. Joined by fellow activist Kelly Addington, Tieder has traveled up to 150 days a year since 2003, speaking about sexual assault awareness, prevention and sexual empowerment. According to her website, the pair has taken their message to more than a half-million students at nearly 400 college campuses.

Previously, Tieder considered a run for Pinellas County School Board in 2020 but said that after attending several board meetings, she felt the current crop of elected officials were “well suited for their jobs.”

Latvala has held the Republican-leaning HD 67 since 2014, after defeating Democrat Steve Sarnoff by six points. In 2016, he defeated Democrat David Vogel by 17 points in the district that went for Republican Donald Trump by around 4 points. Wednesday evening, Latvala is holding a campaign kickoff event in Clearwater, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Island Bay Grill, 20 Island Way.

Lantana Democrat Lori Berman

Lori Berman’s special election victory certified

Lantana Democrat Lori Berman’s special election victory for a Palm Beach County Senate district, which moved her up from the Florida House, was quickly certified Tuesday.

The Elections Canvassing Commission — comprised of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — certified the April 10 election results in which Berman defeated Lake Worth Republican Tami Donnally. Secretary of State Ken Detzner oversaw the brief telephonic meeting in which all three members of the commission participated.

Berman captured 75 percent of the vote for the Democratic-leaning Senate District 31 seat that was vacated in October by Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who stepped down after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.

Berman’s Senate term will expire after the 2020 Legislative Session.

Less than 10 percent of the 312,967 registered voters in the district participated in the special general election, according to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections website.

Berman’s District 90 Palm Beach County House seat will be filled in the November general election.

Berman’s election to the 40-member Senate leaves the upper chamber with one empty chair. The lone vacancy, District 16 in Pinellas and Pasco counties, will be filled in November. Former Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican from Clearwater, resigned from the seat in December, following a sexual-harassment investigation.

Florida Democrats lining up challenger for Chris Latvala

Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala could soon have a challenger in his House District 67 re-election campaign

Sources close to House Victory and incoming Democratic leader Kionne McGhee confirmed Tuesday that the party is actively recruiting Becca Teider to run against Latvala in the fall.

Tieder is part of a duo who travel to college campuses to speak about sexual assault awareness, prevention and sexual empowerment.

As a speaker, Tieder has visited more than 400 college campuses, some military installations, and even the White House as part of a roundtable on college sexual assault held by former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview with Florida Politics, the Clearwater native said she hasn’t decided whether she will enter the race, but that she’s “definitely giving it some serious consideration.” She said she’ll make the call within the next few weeks.

“If I run, it’s because I’m the best candidate for the seat. I’m not doing this for me – I have a great life,” she said. “But if I feel like I can make a difference, I will run and I will win.”

One of the obstacles remaining for the mother of two is whether being in Tallahassee for long stretches would put too much of a strain on her children, family and business.

As a legislator, it’s possible she’d travel less than she does now – some years she has spent up to 150 days travelling and this week alone she’s already crossed the country to give talks at Penn State University and the University of Southern California.

Running for the state Legislature wasn’t always part of Tieder’s plans. Until recently, she was considering a run for Pinellas County School Board in 2020, but after attending several board meetings she felt like the current crop of elected officials were well suited for their jobs.

What did resonate with her were members’ complaints of overreach from Tallahassee, including a shift toward increased funding for charter schools.

“Charter schools serve a purpose, but not as a replacement for public schools,” she said, adding that she saw it as wrong to “give away so much of what feels like our – the public’s – responsibility.”

Tieder’s possible candidacy also seems to telegraph that Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who recently resigned from the Senate due to allegations of sexual harassment, will be at the forefront of a campaign between her and Chris Latvala, Jack’s son.

Her view of the longtime state Senator has some nuance, but she didn’t deny the topic would be part of her run if she enters the race.

“Jack Latvala has – as a legislator – done some very good things for Pinellas County, but unfortunately his legacy is forever changed,” she said. “Given my background, I always side with the survivors.”

Tieder said she didn’t see District 67’s Republican advantage – the seat voted plus-4 for Donald Trump – as particularly daunting. If anything, she said Trump’s election could be “a good thing, in the long run” if enough Democrats are motivated to turn out in 2018.

“Either that, or the world could implode,” she said.

Latvala has held the District 67 seat for two terms. He won election in 2014 with a 6-point win over Democrat Steve Sarnoff, and in 2016 he defeated Democrat David Vogel by 17 points.

Asked about the prospect of facing a challenger in the 2018 cycle, Latvala issued the following statement:

“It is a great honor to serve House District 67. Pinellas County has a long history of independent thinking Republicans. I am a proud Conservative who is an independent thinker and votes in line with the district on things like guns, environmental issues, and matters of equality. I am taking this election cycle very seriously and since session has ended my team has knocked on over 3,000 doors and we have ramped up our fundraising efforts. We will not be outworked.”

Latvala has not yet posted his March campaign finance report, though through the end of February he had raised $43,250 for his re-election campaign and had about $19,000 on hand.

Florida Democrats look to expand number of state Senate seats in play

It’s been nearly 25 years since a Democrat presided over the Florida Senate, but if the plans of party leaders and operatives come together, the president’s gavel could be theirs as soon as November.

The Florida Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the recently-established campaign arm of the Senate Democrats, are aggressively working to reshape the map of seats in play this election cycle.

According to multiple sources, including several Democratic state senators, as well as senior staff at the FDP and the FDLCC, the party is:

— Hoping to persuade former state Rep. Amanda Murphy to run for the open seat in Senate District 16, once held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Currently, former state Rep. Ed Hooper is running for the Pinellas-based district against a long-shot Democratic opponent.

— Actively encouraging outgoing state Rep. Janet Cruz to enter the race for SD 18, where she would go up against Republican incumbent Dana Young.

— Expecting trial lawyer Carrie Pilon to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeff Brandes in SD 24, a seat that’s historically flipped back and forth between the parties.

— Investing a higher level of resources than first expected in the campaigns of Kayser Enneking and Bob Doyel, two first-time candidates challenging Republican incumbents Keith Perry and Kelli Stargel, respectively.

— Counting on Alex Penelas, the former mayor of Miami-Dade County, to step up and run for SD 36, where Republican Rene Garcia is term-limited. State Rep. Manny Diaz has already declared for the seat and, in fact, just raised more than $50,000 at his first fundraiser.

Currently, the Florida Senate has 23 Republicans and 15 Democrats, although Lori Berman‘s special election victory is a foregone conclusion, so it’s really 23-16.

That means Republicans hold a seven-seat advantage heading into the 2018 cycle. If the Democrats protect all of their incumbents (currently none are engaged in particularly competitive re-elections) and win five of the seven targets listed above — an enormous, almost herculean task — Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville will serve as president of the Senate in 2018-20.

Of course, it’s easy to draw targets on a map. Having candidates actually file for the seats and win their races are other matters altogether.

There’s also the issue of money.

Florida Democrats have been traditionally hamstrung by a decided lack of financial resources, while their Republican counterparts in the Senate are flush with campaign cash, both in the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s fund and in the individual accounts of several Senators.

Republicans have other advantages at their disposal. First of all, most are incumbents and can use the power of their offices to reach voters. And despite what some in the traditional media might have you believe, Florida’s Republican lawmakers are actually held in good standing by most voters, with 52 percent of Floridians giving them the thumbs-upaccording to a recent poll from the University of North Florida.

There’s also the reality that most of the Republicans being targeted by the Democrats are off to big head-starts over their prospective Democratic challengers.

“We have excellent candidates who have strong support from their communities and have the resources and on-the-ground teams needed to win,” said Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, who leads his party’s campaign efforts. “The Democrats can focus on recruiting candidates. We are focusing on preparing our already-set slate of candidates for victory.”

Young has banked away nearly a million dollars for her re-election. Brandes has a large, near-permanent campaign staff that really hasn’t stopped working since he was first elected in 2010. Hooper has decades of experience representing Pinellas voters, whereas Murphy would be a new face to many SD 16 constituents. There isn’t a weekend when Diaz isn’t walking door-to-door in this district (Don’t believe me? Just check his Twitter account).

Despite these and other disadvantages, the Democrats are taking the first steps of putting the pieces on the chessboard.

Murphy confirms that interest in her challenging Hooper is spiking. She said her phone was “blowing up” Tuesday as word of her prospective candidacy spread. While she acknowledges that “in today’s climate it would be crazy not to think about running for office,” she also is concerned about what a return to public life might do to her professional career: “I have clients, a team and regulations that demand my time.”

Florida Politics reported Tuesday night that Cruz, currently running for the Hillsborough County Commission, has spoken with Senate Democratic leadership and party donors about challenging Young. Several sources say she has contacted Young’s current Democratic challenger Bob Buesing to discuss clearing the field for her.

Florida Politics recently acquired the internal working documents of the nascent campaign of Pilon, who could launch her campaign as soon as next week.

Penelas, last in office 14 years ago, confirmed Wednesday morning that he is considering a run and that he will likely make a decision next week. A lot depends on what his family — Penelas has a young daughter — thinks of the decision, he says.

With a potential abundance of riches, at least in terms of candidates, the question remains whether the Democrats will have the money to play in as many as seven or eight competitive seats.

One potential source of the kind of money needed to compete in all of these seats is national money, like that from former Attorney General Eric Holder‘s National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It’s attracted to the possibility of flipping chambers, not just winning seats.

“If there was ever a cycle when Democrats could make huge gains in a chamber, including possible flipping one, it’s this year, and it’s in the Florida Senate,” said Christian Ulvert, a prominent Democratic political consultant.

Tampa Bay Times editorial board disgustingly misframes the Jack Latvala scandal

Up until the moment a special master’s report found credible evidence of Jack Latvala‘s sexual misconduct, I was a defender of the Republican state Senator’s right to due process and, to some extent, an opportunity to confront his accusers.

But after former Judge Ronald Swanson issued a report that Latvala inappropriately touched a top Senate aide and may have broken the law by offering a witness in the case his support for legislation in exchange for sex acts, there was no way anyone could still stand by Latvala’s side, especially since he kept many of those close to him in the dark about the full extent of his legal vulnerabilities.

Yet, apparently, there are still a few people not related to Latvala taking up his cause, namely the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.

In an editorial lamenting the hits, errors and misses of the 2018 Legislative Session, Tim Nickens and Co. rightly criticize lawmakers for failing to deliver on reforming sexual harassment laws and policies.

Yet, inexplicably, if not mind-bogglingly, the editorial board writes that “the rhetoric from many lawmakers about changing a toxic work environment in the state Capitol appears to have been cover for ousting a moderate Republican who made too many enemies.”

I don’t write this lightly, but are you f*cking kidding me?

Is the Times really suggesting that Richard Corcoran, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Matt Caldwell and others spoke out loudly about “the toxic work environment in the state Capitol” as a ploy to sideline Latvala?

Wasn’t it rather that they, like Latvala’s attorney Steve Andrews, almost threw up when they learned about the extent of Latvala’ serial abuse?

A former lobbyist whose name was redacted in the released copy of Swanson’s report said Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in his office.

She said he “intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying,” Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.

But if you go by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Latvala’s problem was not forcing a lobbyist to engage in a quid pro quo for sexual favors, it’s that he was a “moderate” who “made too many enemies.”

Alexandra Glorioso, one of the POLITICO Florida journalists who first reported about Latvala’s pattern of sexual harassment, took to Twitter Sunday to comment about the Times editorial board’s position. (I took to Twitter Friday night to criticize the editorial as soon as I read it).

Among the smart points Glorioso makes:

— It’s inexplicable that the Times editorial board can criticize the Legislature for failing to take sexual harassment seriously, yet criticize some lawmakers for investigating “its hometown Senator.”

— The Times editorial board “continues to refer to Jack Latvala as a ‘moderate Republican who made too many enemies’ and not a former Senator who resigned in disgrace after two independent investigators concluded he likely sexually assaulted and harassed women.”

This is an interesting point because on the same weekend this editorial ran, the Times published a story about former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, whom it describes as “disgraced” even though his sins were, arguably, not as consequential as Latvala’s.

If you read between the lines of this editorial and the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald’s coverage of L’Affaire Latvala writ large, it’s that – darn it – Florida would have been a lot better off if Latvala had been around to stick up to Corcoran’s House, etc., on the hometown issues the Times feels passionately about (consolidation of the USF system, for example).

Think of it as some sort of victim shaming in which the few lawmakers who spoke out (early) against Latvala are now being editorialized against for having done so.

And one final note: As Glorioso notes, editorials of the Tampa Bay Times are unsigned and “represent the institutional opinion of the newspaper.”

Accordingly, this editorial brings shame to the entire institution.

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

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