Two Legislative Leaders Lose Posts In Sex Scandals

By John Celock

Powerful state lawmakers in Kentucky and Florida have lost their posts amid accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate texts.

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) announced his resignation Sunday from the speakership Sunday, following revelations that he exchanged inappropriate texts with a staffer. In Florida, state Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), a gubernatorial candidate, was removed from his post as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee following allegations from six women of sexual harassment.

Hoover, who will remain in the state Legislature, announced his resignation from the speakership a day after saying that he would remain in office, despite a call from Gov. Matt Bevin (R) to step down. In addition, 3 legislators, Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee Chairman Jim DeCesare (R-Rockfield), Personnel, Public Retirement and Finance Budget Subcommittee Chairman Brian Linder (R-Dry Ridge) and Local Government Committee Chairman Michael Meredith (R-Brownsville) were suspended from their leadership posts pending a review of sexual harassment allegations made against them.

Hoover’s resignation comes less than a year after he became the first Republican to serve as House speaker in Kentucky since the 1920s. Hoover helped orchestrate the 2016 Republican takeover of the Kentucky state House, completing a GOP takeover of state government.

House Speaker Pro Temp David Osborne (R-Prospect) has taken over as acting speaker pending the election of a new speaker to replace Hoover.

Latvala’s removal from the powerful budget writing post in Florida, comes as Gov. Rick Scott (R) called the allegations against Latvala “disgusting.” Latvala has been accused by six women of groping them.

Latvala sent a letter Monday to Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City) asking to be relieved of his duties as appropriations committee chairman. The letter came after Negron announced that he was hiring an independent investigator to look into the claims against Latvala. Negron tapped Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) to the new appropriations committee chairman. Bradley remains chairman of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee but gave up the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee to take the top budget post.

The allegations against Latvala shake up Florida’s gubernatorial contest where Latvala is facing off against state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP primary. Putnam, a former congressman, has long been viewed as the GOP gubernatorial frontrunner.

The Republican primary winner in Florida will face off against the winner of the four-way Democratic primary between former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Chris King.

The United States is not the only country seeing political resignations amid sexual harassment allegations. Over the weekend, days after British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon stepped down amid several allegations of inappropriate behavior, senior government whip Christopher Pincher stepped down amid allegations that he propositioned a male prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate in 2001. In addition to the whip’s job, Pincher held the largely ceremonial post of comptroller of Queen Elizabeth II’s Household.