Rumors of the affair between Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and Democratic Sen. Oscar Braynon have been drifting around Tallahassee for more than a year. But not until Tuesday, when an anonymous texter sent media outlets surveillance "evidence" of to-ing and fro-ing between apartments at The Tennyson, where they both lived last April, did the rumors become a public reality.
Braynon and Flores issued a joint statement Tuesday morning, admitting their relationship grew beyond friendship and apologizing to their constituents for it.
"As this 2018 session of the Florida Legislature gets underway," reads the statement, "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."
Said the anonymous texter, "From April 11th to the 13th, the author observed Braynon and Flores’ professional engagements via the Florida Senate’s website http://www.flsenate.gov, conducted digital research utilizing the Internet to gain familiarity with both subjects, and became familiar with the routines of both subjects."
See the texter's posting in its entirety by clicking on his/her website here.
He/she claims the surveillance footage blows the couple's affair wide open: "When the videos are considered in their entirety, they depict a clear pattern of behavior that is consistent with individuals engaged in an extramarital relationship, and/or cohabitation. Flores spent the night with Braynon on four consecutive nights ... Flores also appeared to have a key to Braynon's unit, and was able to unlock and secure his unit."
Whoever made sure this story got out -- whether it's aggrieved former Sen. Frank Artiles or Jack Latvala, two men who threatened revenge for their personal takedown -- it really is more than a tale of another extramarital affair in a world so full of them.
It is a commentary on the judgment of these two elected leaders and the culture of Tallahassee. It's also a reflection on Senate President Joe Negron's leadership choices -- first Jack Latvala, who used his power to force himself on unwilling young staffers and lobbyists at the Capitol, now Anitere Flores who is president pro tempore. As head of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, Flores, remember, sought a special favor from Citizen's Property Insurance for her mother's damaged house after Hurricane Irma, one to which her fellow constituents were not entitled.
Negron has to be shellshocked.
Pillow talk between senators in different caucuses is already coming into question. Both parties, let alone Florida law, take a dim view of sharing certain pre-vote conversation behind closed doors.
And only time will tell whether both-married Flores of Miami and Minority Leader Braynon of Miami Gardens, who traveled together on "state business" on occasion, will face an ethics investigation surrounding using public money to conduct their affair. A photo on Facebook last year, displayed at the top of this story, shows Rep. Shevrin Jones with Flores and Braynon standing in front of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The lawmakers were in Boston for the Millennial Action Project’s 2017 Future Summit. At the time lawmakers and lobbyists whispered privately that "it wasn't necessary for both of them to go to something in the most expensive city in the country." How many Bostons were there in the last couple of years?
Now, with the 2018 legislative session breathing down their necks, Flores and Braynon want to be left alone?
It doesn't matter if spite let the cat out of the bag -- somebody did. The point is, these two have heavy committee assignments. Is Negron, whose presidential legacy is in jeopardy, likely to intervene in Flores' case? Can Flores in particular overcome the questions bound to face her in the months ahead to work effectively on a fully loaded Senate agenda? She's apparently escaped with Negron's blessing so far. We'll have to see where it goes from here.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: NancyLBSmith