In a whirlwind 24 hour timespan, incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, resigned from office Friday after reports swirled he had been caught in an extramarital affair with a Tallahassee lobbyist.
"I have made mistakes I ashamed of, and for the past six months I have been focused on becoming a better person,’’ Clemens said in a statement. “But it is clear to me that task is impossible to finish while in elected office. ... Though they have been aware for some time now, I apologize again to my wife, my family and anyone and everyone that I have treated poorly in the past for putting you through this in such a public way.’’
POLITICO first reported about the scandal on Friday. By mid-morning, Clemens had gone dark on social media, deleting his Twitter account as the headlines went out about his private life.
He admitted and apologized for having an affair with lobbyist Devon West, who was recently tapped to work for the Broward County Board of County Commissioners.
“I used poor judgment and hurt people that I care about, and for that I apologized long ago,” Clemens told Politico. “But I also owe my constituents and colleagues an apology and I intend to do just that.”
According to the report, the affair became public after West obtained Clemens’ laptop computer. West allegedly rummaged through the laptop, gaining access to all of Clemens’ contacts and personal information and informed Clemens’ wife of the affair.
Politico wrote that Clemens then went to Senate Budget Chief Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about the affair and asked him for help.
Latvala enlisted Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, to do damage control because he lived in the same apartment building as West. West left Clemens’ laptop with the concierge of the Tennyson condominium complex for Braynon to pick up.
Clemens apologized for the incident repeatedly and said he would be “seeking forgiveness” for the affair.
Clemens was set to take the reins of the Senate Democratic Party in 2019 and has represented parts of Palm Beach County in Tallahassee since 2012. He had recently been credited for the first glimpse of success the Florida Democrats had seen in quite some time when he led Annette Taddeo's campaign against former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Miami special election earlier this year.
Taddeo narrowly defeated Diaz and now represents Florida's 40th Senate District, which was formerly represented by Frank Artiles, who also resigned from office this year after making racially-charged comments at a black lawmaker.
Clemens represented Senate District 31, which includes Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Greenacres.
Prior to his stint as a Florida senator, Clemens served one term in the Florida House of Representatives.
Gov. Rick Scott will now call a special election to replace Clemens, who handily won his elections each time he ran for office.
Sunshine State News contacted both Sen. Clemens and Sen. Braynon’s office for further comment but had not received a response at the time of this story’s release.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.