The 2018 legislative session opened Monday with the lingering conduct of sexual misdeeds hanging over it. The latest lawmakers caught in the web are two of the Senate’s most powerful leaders.
A website documenting the affair between Democratic Minority Leader Oscar Braynon and Senate President Pro Tempore Republican Senator Anitere Flores went live Tuesday. The site features video it claims shows Flores entering Braynon's room several nights in a row.
Both Miami senators confirmed the affair in a joint statement and apologized:
"As this 2018 session of the Florida Legislature gets underway, we do not want gossip and rumors to distract from the important business of the people. That's why we are issuing this brief statement to acknowledge that our longtime friendship evolved to a level that we deeply regret. We have sought the forgiveness of our families, and also seek the forgiveness of our constituents and God. We ask everyone else to respect and provide our families the privacy that they deserve as we move past this to focus on the important work ahead."
Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto says their situation is different from the likes of Jack Latvala who resigned after two investigations concluded he sexually harassed a female legislative aid and other women.
“I think that’s a private matter between Senator Flores and Senator Braynon and I think their priority is two-fold, with their families and serving their constituents throughout the balance of this legislative session."
Braynon found a hidden camera at the Tallahassee condo building the Tennyson, and for months, members of the Senate have assumed they've been under surveillance. The website features surveillance video of the halls of the Tennyson where Braynon and Flores reside and there are questions regarding who the website belongs too, and who hired the private investigator that shot the video.
Former Democratic Senator Jeff Clemens resigned in November shortly after Politico Florida he had an affair with a lobbyist.
Governor Rick Scott is calling on the legislature to expand protections for state workers who report sexual harassment and Benacquisto says she’s planning to revise Senate rules on the issue. The revelations follow a national trend of powerful politicians, actors and businesspeople accused of sexual misconduct.
Flores has manged to kill several high profile pro-gun measures in the last few years. She has also blocked changes to Assignment of Benefits--a mechanism used by homeowners that allows independent contractors to work directly with insurance companies on repairs, which the insurance industry says is driving up costs.