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Hernando commission candidate acknowledges affair

Jason Sager stands with his wife, Stephanie Sager-Barnett, after the Republican candidate for District 3 county commissioner won a primary vote in August.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Jason Sager stands with his wife, Stephanie Sager-Barnett, after the Republican candidate for District 3 county commissioner won a primary vote in August.

BROOKSVILLE — Jason Patrick Sager, who has campaigned for the District 3 County Commission seat based on his conservative family values, had an affair with his media liaison that contributed to the end of her marriage.

"I had an inappropriate relationship with a friend that I am not proud of,'' Sager said on Thursday. "It's a personal matter between my wife and my family and that's just what it is. I have the utmost in confidence in my family and our ability to repair the damage that I have caused and move forward.''

Sager's admission came after the Tampa Bay Times questioned him about materials the newspaper obtained this week. The relationship is detailed in hundreds of explicit emails, photos and video provided by Edward "Eddie" Alexandre, the ex-husband of Danielle Alexandre, a political consultant who has served as Sager's media liaison since January.

Sager, 38, initially denied the relationship. He reviewed a few of the emails but declined to watch a graphic video of himself and Ms. Alexandre, recorded by a hidden camera set up by her suspecting husband in their bedroom.

Several hours later, after consulting an attorney, Sager admitted to the relationship.

"That relationship is ended," he said. "It has been ended. It was a mutual end. What I was doing was wrong.''

Sager said he was not thinking about dropping out of the race because he does not want his main opponent, Democrat Diane Rowden, to walk into the job. No-party candidate Greg Sheldon is also on the ballot.

"This action has nothing to do with the plans I have to put people back to work in Hernando County,'' Sager said.

Contacted by the Times on Thursday, Ms. Alexandre, 33, admitted to the affair that began in March, and said she had suffered through a difficult marriage. The relationship with Sager, she said, ended in June.

"I was a broken person,'' she said. "I'm still broken.''

Mr. Alexandre said he first suspected something between Sager and his wife in March when he thought she was spending an excessive amount of time working on the campaign. Then he said he discovered dozens of text messages between the two daily when he got his phone bill.

Mr. Alexandre consulted a private investigator and learned how to set up a hidden camera and how to retrieve emails and photos from his wife's computer in their house in Spring Hill.

He said he was sickened by what he found.

Over a period of weeks, Ms. Alexandre and Sager exchanged graphic emails. Ms. Alexandre also confided in a friend about the affair through private Facebook messages. She told the friend that Sager had separated from his wife, and that they spent the previous night in separate houses.

"I am also very sure he is going to try to make this work until the election because we can not afford a scandal!" Ms. Alexandre wrote.

Sager adamantly denies that he and his wife ever separated.

Mr. Alexandre filed for divorce in late April and it was granted three weeks later. He got the house, primary custody of their three children and pays no alimony.

He said that he decided to come forward now because of two recent incidents. Two weeks ago his 12-year-old son snatched a copy of a Sager campaign flier from the mailbox and shredded it. He told his father that he didn't need to see it. That, Mr. Alexandre said, was when he first knew the boy was aware of his mother's relationship with Sager.

Then about the same time, he pulled up in gas station next to Sager's wife, Stephanie. He thought about how he would want to know about the affair if he were in her shoes. But he didn't tell her.

Sager said he believes Mr. Alexandre is trying to hurt Ms. Alexandre by coming forward with the accusations but he would not say anything more on the advice of his attorney.

In addition to his conservative values platform plank, Sager has also campaigned about restoring faith in government. Sager said the affair has nothing to do with that.

"The actions as a legislator and effort to maintain the faith with the people and the government and my personal life are not connected,'' he said. "I'm telling you I have committed no crime. I have a serious indiscretion that has happened and I'm sorry."

Ms. Alexandre has continued to work as Sager's liaison and said their relationship has been "completely professional" for months.

He said she is a volunteer but there is an intent to pay her at the end of the campaign. Ms. Alexandre also said she had a contract to be paid but that was in question now. She would not say for how much.

Sager said he and his wife have weathered difficult times before, and "I have the utmost faith in the bond that she and I have that we will weather this as well."

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando commission candidate acknowledges affair 10/25/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 7:53am]
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