Holly Fussell’s accusations affected Alan Grayson’s campaign

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Political operative Holly Fussell‘s internet accusations — that Democratic congressional candidate Susannah Randolph had once ignored complaints of staff sexual harassment — has echoed into the campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson.

Brook Hines said Thursday she resigned last week as U.S. Rep. Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign deputy communications director because she was ethically too uncomfortable with the appearance raised when a former Grayson staffer and trusted associate, Fussell, published her assertions, which could harm Randolph’s campaign and help her opponent, Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson.

Both Randolph and Dena Grayson are among four Democrats battling in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, vying to replace Rep. Grayson. A recent St. Pete Polls survey showed Dena Grayson with a slim lead on Randolph heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Earlier this month Fussell, a former staffer to Grayson, published a Facebook post and then a blog item slamming Randolph, claiming she looked the other way for months in 2014 as Fussell complained to her about sexual harassment. In a follow-up post last week, Fussell alleged the man eventually raped her. The exchange was reported earlier Thursday on FloridaPolitics.com, based on comments Fussell sent detailing her assertions.

Through her staff, Randolph denied Fussell’s assertions, and Thursday issued a statement saying she was saddened by Fussell’s story of sexual assault and harassment, saying she first heard about it last week.

It also appeared, based on Randolph’s and Fussell’s employment histories, that Randolph was never a supervisor of Fussell or the man during the period Fussell alleged sexual harassment.

Hines said Thursday she was troubled the attacks on Randolph were coming from a woman who had, until late July, been Alan Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign digital director.

“I resigned my position as deputy communications director of the Alan Grayson for Senate Campaign after the second posting by Ms. Fussell,” Hines wrote in a statement to FlordiaPolitics.com.

“I believe the campaign of allegations actions by Alan’s long-time digital director against Susannah Randolph, a candidate competing against his new wife in the District 9 Congressional race, carry an implicit taint of political motivation,” she continued. “And while I am not aware of the congressman explicitly encouraging Ms. Fussell in her accusations, I think it’s problematic for a candidate whose own campaign has been marred by accusations regarding his treatment of women to countenance these attacks from someone associated with his campaign against another woman who is also a political opponent of his wife.”

[Alan Grayson’s campaign was hurt in late July by reports that his ex-wife had accused him of domestic violence, reports he strongly denied. Similar, but differently dated reports had appeared two years ago during their divorce proceedings. He also strongly denied those at the time.]

Hines also told FloridaPolitics.com that she believes the man Fussell has accused of raping her — Fussell has not publicly identified the man — worked with Fussell for at least a couple of months this spring on Alan Grayson’s campaign. Yet Fussell targeted her public attacks only on Randolph for employing the man, but never wrote a critical word about Alan Grayson for also employing him.

Other sources also told FloridaPolitics.com the man who is the target of Fussell’s rape allegations worked for the Alan Grayson campaign this spring.

Hines said she is confident Alan Grayson had been aware of Fussell’s allegations for months before Fussell published her Facebook and blog posts this month.

Fussell, who communicated with FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday and earlier Thursday, did not respond to inquiries about Hines’ statements. In her earlier statements she insisted she sought the advice of no one other than her therapist before publishing her posts. She said she published when she was finally emotionally ready to talk about it, and that happened to be this month.

She also wrote, in answering questions, that she decided to come out with criticisms of what she saw as Randolph’s tolerance of the man, “when I saw that my rapist’s name was on Susannah’s campaign finance report.”

The man’s name apparently should also appear on Alan Grayson’s campaign finance reports. That is if, as Hines and other source said, he was fully employed in a high-level staff position on the campaign at least through much of the spring. Fussell would have already known that, because she, too, had a high-level staff position on the campaign throughout that period.

But Fussell, who works out of Washington, D.C., did not mention that in her posts criticizing Randolph.

[There appeared to be an oddity with Alan Grayson’s finance reports covering the spring, filed July 15. They do not list any expenditures — no pay to any staff members or payments to any contractors, not even payments for utility bills.]

The campaign of Dena Grayson said she never discussed Fussell’s allegations with her.

Alan Grayson’s campaign manager, Michael Ceraso, said the campaign and Grayson also did not consult with Fussell in advance of her posts.

“Never once did we try to coerce or do any sort of thing to encourage Holly to publish this on social media,” he said. “She did it all on her own.”

He also released a statement to FloridaPolitics.com calling for sensitivity to be paid to the victim of alleged rape and sexual harassment.

“The political feud between the Grayson and Randolph campaigns has reinforced the harsh reality that women are too often marginalized or even worse, victim-blamed for stepping forward after surviving sexual assault,” he stated. “Regardless of the facts or the timing, victims should be believed and protected when they share their experiences, without fear of reprisal. The Grayson campaign stands by this and all survivors of sexual assault who are brave enough to come forward.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]



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