Florida State Senator Jack Latvala Loses Top Post Over Sexual Harassment Accusations

A Florida state senator who is running for governor has been removed from a top post after six women accused of him of sexual harassment spanning several years.

Jack Latvala, a Republican, was removed Monday as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee as investigations into the allegations began. Senate President Joe Negron, a fellow Republican, said it was in the Senate "best interest" for Latvala to step aside.

Latvala, meanwhile, framed it as a "leave of absence" that might end.

"I look forward to defending myself against these untruthful allegations and believe I will be fully exonerated," he wrote in a letter to Negron, which was obtained by the Sun-Sentinel.

The allegations, published by Politico Florida on Friday, come from women who worked for both political parties and reportedly took place over several years.

The women said Latvala them to flirt with him to get a warmer reception to issues they discussed. One woman said they were expected to "play along" with the senator.

“It was so disgusting and I had to just stand there, over and over again when he would do this, squeezing me hard and grunting in my ear,” one woman, who remained anonymous, told Politico.

“The question isn’t whether this happened to me. The question is who this didn’t happen to in the Capitol. It’s not like it’s a secret that Jack is like this,” she added.

Latvala told Politico he had not had any allegations made against him in 16 years, stating: “I’m sure that you have handpicked people and you are going to let anonymous people have this kind of impact on the career of a guy who has been there for 16 years. I’ve never had a complaint filed against me.”

The allegations against Latvala come amid a slew of sexual harassment allegations in state houses including Oregon, California and Illinois. Former President George H.W. Bush was also recently accused of inappropriately touching actress Heather Lind several years ago, something Bush claimed was an attempt at humor that went wrong. 

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