Is there a culture of sex, secrets and silence in Tallahassee?

Republican state senator Jack Latvala is entering the race for governor.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  (WFLA) – There are more allegations of sexual harassment against Republican State Senator from Clearwater Jack Latvala, who is running for Governor in 2018.

Now at least seven women have stepped forward, claiming he groped them or made demeaning statements about their bodies.

Latvala maintains his innocence but has yet to speak publicly about it.

On Monday, Senate President Joe Negron removed Latvala as chair of the appropriations committee.

Ever since dozens of women began coming out with their sexual assault allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, women across the country began sharing their personal stories.

And now in much the same way, new accusations against Senator Latvala are beginning to mount after the initial allegations made against him.

So is there a culture of sex, secrets and silence in Florida politics and in Tallahassee?

Many people News Channel 8 spoke with told us it dates back decades and say young women, including interns and runners, were afraid to say no to lawmakers, campaign staffers and lobbyists, to name a few, fearing it would mean an end to their political future.

“It’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg,” said Peter Schorsch, publisher of Floridapolitics.com and Influence magazine, referring to the allegations against Latvala.

In what could be Tallahassee’s worst kept secret, Schorsch, who’s had his eye on Florida politics for two decades, isn’t surprised about the controversy now swirling around Latvala.

“It will be like a police corruption story,” he told us. “The first one goes and then all the other lieutenants. It’s the most good-old-boy network you’ve ever seen. It is literally smoke-filled rooms. There’s absolutely a culture of sex and secrets up in Tallahassee. So much so, there was prominent lobbyist this weekend who were saying that sex is traded for success on their legislative priorities.”

Part of the culture that lasted up until just a few years ago included the annual Miss Rotunda contest. That’s where a group of men, capital insiders, selected who they considered to be the most beautiful female intern that year.

“I have had people who have suggested that job opportunities might be given if certain things were to happen,” Shannon Love, a Democratic consultant who has worked on Florida political campaigns for more than two decades told us.

She told us she had been victimized. But when we asked if she could remember how many people made unwanted sexual advances towards her?

“Oh, no,” she replied.  “Not even if I tried.”

Love also believes this is a double-edged sword since it’s good, she said, that women are coming out and sharing their experiences. At the same time it’s not good, at least not yet, that many men aren’t telling other men they need to change the culture.

As for Schorsch’s wife, she claims that she, too, was a victim.

The question now? How many more women, if any, will come forward.

Follow Paul Mueller on Facebook

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