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Nancy Smith

It's Becky Troutman's Turn to Talk about a Night and a Decision She Regrets

August 24, 2018 - 6:00am
Becky Troutman
Becky Troutman

Politics always turns dirtier a week ahead of voting day, but somebody involved in the Republican primary for commissioner of agriculture crossed the line this year -- flooding phones with text blasts of candidate Baxter Troutman in an orange jumpsuit with a link to a 6-year-old Lakeland Ledger story, "Baxter Troutman Accused of Hitting His Wife with a Bedspread."

Dial up the link: Seems in 2012, on the night of his 46th birthday, Troutman and his wife Becky got into an argument. In the heat of the moment, he threw a blanket at her, it struck her in the face -- and she called the police. Troutman was arrested for domestic battery and spent a night in jail. The charge was dismissed.

The unsigned text attack, distributed to thousands of Florida voters a week before the primary, is the kind of campaign stunt that can backfire -- and in the primary, it likely will. 

I Beg to DifferIt can make people feel uncomfortable. It can anger people who identify with the heartless theft of a private moment -- in my case, make me cringe at the thought of the Troutmans' 8-year-old daughter Holly-Kate, who adores her mommy and daddy, having to answer to school friends who are already rushing up to her with questions.

The story of the text is getting some attention, as the anonymous political operative who created it intended. Now I hear it's about to become a story on TV8 in Tampa.

But so far, there's something important missing from all the stories I've read.

Doesn't anybody wonder what the "victim" of this bedspread assault, Becky Troutman, has to say six years later?

If Baxter Troutman is the unelectable, wife-beating scoundrel the text makes him out to be, how come his wife -- a proud, independent woman, a former teacher with a graduate degree in school psychology -- is still with him? How can she still be a partner in their marriage and serve as deputy treasurer for Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner and as chair of her husband's affiliated political committee?

The text
The text

I asked her Thursday, and she seemed eager to tell her story.

"It's embarrassing, what happened that night," Becky explained. "If my husband hadn't been serving in the state House as he was at the time, or if he wasn't from such a prominent family, the story wouldn't have made the news and I wouldn't feel the need to talk about it  now.

"That night I made an impulsive decision to call the police -- haven't you ever done something impulsive like that?" she asked me. "I wish I hadn't, I would take it back and do things differently if I could."

Becky did admit that some good came of that emotion-frayed experience. "It didn't destroy us, it made us stronger. It brought us closer," she said. "We learned how to communicate and our marriage now is like night and day from what it was.

"Baxter Troutman is a good man. If he were anything less than an admirable man, it wouldn't have worked out as it did and I wouldn't be able to sit here and tell you, he'll make a fantastic commissioner of agriculture.

"We had to look at our faith and our vows to get us through the public moment it became back then. 

"Baxter was never charged, yet his political opponents have turned it into gutter politics."

Becky and Baxter Troutman
Becky and Baxter Troutman

Becky said what bothers her most is "how insulting this has to be" in the public sphere, where real domestic violence is such a crushing problem. "Imagine yourself a real victim of spouse abuse and reading this petty story based on who we are rather than what actually happened."

The Capitolist, an online news site, named Denise Grimsley, one of Troutman's chief competitors in the GOP primary -- along with her longtime ally, former Sen. Jack Latvala -- as the suspect most likely behind the text blast. In fact, Brian Burgess, the story's author, makes a strong case for Grimsley and Latvala as the culprits. 

The state senator emphatically denied it during a telephone conversation Thursday.

"It's absolutely not me," Grimsley told me. "I talked to Baxter weeks ago and made a commitment to him that I would never bring the arrest incident up, and I've kept my promise." Asked if she thought Latvala could be involved, she paused for a moment. "I don't think so," she said. Then she made it more definite: "No."

I hope The Capitolist's Burgess is wrong. It would be ironic if the only woman in the GOP ag race  is behind an attack without substance, teamed up with former Sen. #MeToo.

I asked candidate Matt Caldwell the same question -- was he or his camp behind the text? "No way," he answered. "We've made our contest comparing their legislative records to ours. We think we make a very good case for ourselves based on our stand on taxes, the Second Amendment, water, Republican principles of all kinds and knowledge of the issues Florida faces. We don't have to resort to something like that." 

Unfortunately, this is politics. We may never find out for sure where the text came from.

To refresh your memory on the Republican candidates in the ag commissioner race: Troutman, grandson of citrus and cattle magnate Ben Hill Griffin Jr., a farmer, rancher and business owner who served four terms in the Florida House of Representatives; Caldwell, a state representative from Fort Myers who is a real estate appraiser; Grimsley, a state senator and hospital administrator from Sebring; and Mike McCallister a retired Army colonel who owns a tree farm in Plant City.

Here's the bottom line about the text: All we've got is an empty jail jumpsuit. If the “victim” says nothing happened, if state prosecutors said in 2012 it wasn't worth pursuing, why is it OK to keep the false attack alive? Answer: it isn’t. No wonder whoever pressed the button to launch the text did so under cover of secrecy.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

Trouser Troutman strikes again

What's that mean?

Trumpism has apparently riled up the very bottom of the barrel of defective political wannabes, giving the worst-of-the-worst of them the hope that they, too, still have the chance of being elected by the newly-expanded conglomeration of low-information voters! (Of course, there's also the Miami-area GOP U.S. House candidate who believes her abduction by space aliens when she was seven years old won't affect her chances of being elected now ... and ... she's probably right!) Madre mia!

she'll fit right in with the rest of the wing nuts...

But...orange flatters him. Folks it had to be a lot more than a bedspread or the cops wouldn't have been called. BTW, where does he stand on the issues?

I think Mrs. Troutman used to be a man...

I’d smash

People like who sounds good, instead of learning who might do the best job. Listen, if the lying, cheating, law breaking, racist, reality TV, con man can get elected president by bonafide idiots, anything is possible...

To the well informed voter, this will backfire...problem is, most voters are not well informed, they will choose whoever they saw on TV looking good and allegedly doing good things. It is why we have the sad politicians and legislature we do have, especially in this state, because unfortunately, most everyone is also from somewhere else...bottom line, it will have an impact, even though it should not...

THIS is why so many intelligent, successful, and worthy people refrain from serving their community, state or federal government...the dirtiness, lying, do- anything-to-get-elected mentality of some candidates is disgusting. Why would someone put tgeir family through this gauntlet? Politics is an arena where only the bravest should go. The charges were dropped, and even though I early voted FOR Mr. Troutman, I would still vote for him after reading this article. And if News channel 8 does a hit piece on him....do people really believe fake news anymore? On any given day, and at any given time, you ca n click on any channel and hear nothing but salacious half truths...if not out and out lies. Whatever happened to positive, uplifting news? I, for one, would like to see the positives of each candidate. Some candidates for local, state and federal positions have presented positive, "get to know me" campaign commercials, while others' have been dirty lies!!!! as a life-long Independent voter, I research, and tend to lean towards those who do not feel the need to dirty up the campaign with negatives both democrats and republicans. Bottom line for both parties, if you run a clean campaign, and you are competent for the job, then you have my vote

"Politics hasn't turned dirty",.... It's 'aggressive' POLITICIANS who have progressively become UNHINGED since Obama reigned and Hillary was his "running loose" Secretary of State: DRAIN THE SWAMP....(It's YOUR "turn" FOLKS ! ! !)

Yea sure....politicians were not "unhinged before Obama! Please. Go eat some more fruitcake.

Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy is probably the #1 example of an "aggressive", an "unhinged", and a "dirty" politician running loose in Washington ... 60 YEARS BEFORE Mr. Obama was elected! McCarthy drank himself to death by age 49! The current Swampmaster, however, has very obviously cultivated a whole new breed of even worse SuperSwampRats and CretinousCreatures! Stay tuned!

typical racists wing nut from somewhere else...

Another Obama blamer. Buddy, this crap has been going on long before Obama was President. You need to stop being hypnotized by Der Fuerers rants.

Caldwell’s campaign is dirty. https://twitter.com/becky_troutman/status/1031684267544399872?s=21

Good article - Troutman is a good man with strong family values. Terrible strategy for the others. Will backfire as it should.

If you say so, Becky

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