As storm clouds continue to build around Sen. Jack Latvala in the wake of sexual harassment charges, many politicians with statewide notoriety have made their positions clear.
The tipping point occurred this week, when Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide to Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, went public with her accusations against Latvala. Perrin Rogers was tired of Latvala lying about the motivations of her and her husband, political consultant Brian Hughes.
Attorney General Pam Bondi was “astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years,” adding that there must be “respect” for “the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved.”
Gov. Rick Scott likewise vouched for the character of Perrin Rogers and Hughes.
“Brian Hughes worked for me. I can only say my experience with him is positive,” Scott said to POLITICO. “My experience with his wife has been very positive. When I’ve been around her, she has been a wonderful lady.”
Scott also deemed Latvala’s continued presence in the Senate a “distraction.”
“It is obvious that Senator Latvala remaining in the Senate is a distraction. It seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better. It is my understanding that there’s an investigation underway, and when that is complete, the Senate will have a decision to make,” Scott said. “As I have said all along, if these allegations are true, he must resign immediately.
Adam Putnam, who still has to deal with Latvala as a nominal opponent in the Governor’s race, has begun to work references to “corruption and predation and harassment” into his stump speech.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the legislative business has slowed to a crawl as they’ve struggled to deal with multiple complaints. And no woman should have to endure the type of treatment that has been alleged in this situation. And if it’s true, he needs to go,” Putnam told Florida Politics.
However, the calculus is different for those actually in the Senate, such as Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley — who took Latvala’s place as Appropriations Chair last month.
We asked Bradley if Latvala had become a distraction, if Latvala should resign, and if Latvala has the votes in the Senate to survive this.
Bradley, an attorney by trade, framed his comments on the side of due process.
“Regarding the Latvala matter,” Bradley told us Saturday morning, “there is a process in place and we need to let it work.”
“The process may include the Rules Committee and full Senate considering evidence and arguments, and then making judgments. As a member of the Rules Committee,” Bradley added, “it’s appropriate for me to refrain from responding to these questions at this time.”
One can expect that the process that a Senate investigation will take will happen against a backdrop of leaks and allegations from Latvala and his attorneys, as well as from those aligned with Hughes and Perrin Rogers.
It’s an ugly time in Florida politics, and if the last month is any indication, it’s not about to get better anytime soon.