Florida Democrats lose future leader amid sexual harassment allegations

The party will have to scramble to find a new House leader.
Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, will not seek reelection in 2022.
Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, will not seek reelection in 2022. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published May 12, 2022|Updated May 12, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — State Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, said he will not seek reelection in 2022 amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former employee at Florida A&M University.

The surprise move sent shock waves through Florida Democratic circles Thursday. Alexander was slated to be the leader of the House Democratic caucus for the next two years — and as recently as Wednesday, the party said it would not look to replace him amid the sexual harassment allegations, according to Politico.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, Alexander, 37, did not address the sexual harassment allegations.

“It has been a true honor to stand in the gap year after year, for so many critical issues that impact the future of our state and nation,” he wrote. “After thoughtful consideration and personal self reflection, I will not seek re-election for my final term in the Florida House of Representatives.”

Earlier this week, the Tallahassee Democrat broke news of the allegations against Alexander. A man who used to work in Florida A&M’s athletics department has accused Alexander of sending nude photos of himself, and of groping him on three occasions, according to the Democrat.

Alexander has said he had a consensual relationship with the man. The man denied this to the Democrat, saying he turned away Alexander’s advances.

Alexander, who is married with two children, was widely seen as a rising star in Florida Democratic politics. He went viral in January for his impassioned testimony against a controversial bill dealing with “critical race theory” in schools and in the workplace.

Had Alexander stayed in the political fray, he would have been in charge of getting Democrats elected to the Florida House this November.

The Democrats were already facing an uphill battle. With inflation soaring, President Joe Biden, the party’s standard-bearer, has seen his approval ratings dip into the low 40s. There’s not much time for Biden to turn that around: The final candidate-qualifying deadline for the midterms is June 17.

House Democrats are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2020 cycle, which saw their hopes of cutting into the Republican majority dashed. Instead of gaining seats, Democrats lost five members. There are currently 78 Republicans in the chamber to the Democrats’ 42.

A committee hoping to build on that result for House Republicans raised about $514,000 during the first three months of this year. The Florida Democratic Party raised about $2.5 million during that same time period — but that money will go to all party functions. It’s unclear how much will be dedicated to House victory efforts. A party official in charge of campaigns did not immediately respond to emails requesting clarification.

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Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, the current House minority leader who will be termed out of office this election cycle, said the Democrats will elect a new leader to replace Alexander “in the near future.”

“He and his family are in my thoughts as they navigate into this next phase of their lives,” Jenne said of Alexander in the statement.

State Rep. Fentrice Driskell.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, is next in line for leadership behind Alexander.

Rep. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon, wrote in a text message that Driskell is “the obvious choice” to be the leader starting this November. However, he said he had not spoken with his colleagues about how they would vote.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, one of the caucus’ most progressive lawmakers, wrote in a text message that she also didn’t know who would lead the party caucus next. But she said Alexander made the right decision by stepping down.