Amazing column by Jim Sutton about slutty Tallahassee politician (his dad, who was a State Senator and State Representative. Thank you for blowing the whistle.
Posted December 3, 2017 12:02 am
Egos, libidos the culture of politics
In the country’s new web of sexual harassment, it’s fitting that politicians are getting stuck like the blowflies they likely are. Egos are the ethos in both Tallahassee and Washington D.C.
The behavior isn’t something new, though the spotlight certainly is. I grew up in it, but was too young to realize it back then.
Dad was a member of Florida’s House of Representatives and later a Senator. I spent my childhood days on the road with him during the endless electioneering.
Back then it was a long series of, generally, fish fries, where the candidates spoke on makeshift stages. My job was to stick bumper stickers on as many parked cars and trucks as possible until it was his turn at the mic.
Then he’d hold me in one arm and gesture with the other as he spoke, and it always ended with his five-year-old pronouncing, “Vote for my dad. He’s the best.”
There would be photo sessions with dad and me in the little Orlando Clipper boat, fishing. Or dad and me riding horses. We stretched barb wire around the pasture for the campaign photos and walked through our orange groves.
Parades were a big thing back then. Seems we were always in one. Dad would drive with mom in the front. My sisters and I waved from the back of a convertible. They wore their Easter dresses and little white gloves.
For most of the year we stayed home in a sleepy town called Windermere outside of Orlando — which, come to think of it, was a sleepy town itself in the late 1950s. Disney had not yet descended upon us.
But during the session, my little sister, Cookie, and I went with mom and dad to live in Tallahassee. My two older sisters stayed for those months at home with my grandmother because they were in elementary school.
I got appendicitis that year and Gov. LeRoy Collins gave me a gold spoon with the Florida crest on it for being brave.
For most of my childhood whatever dad did, I did. My three sisters took the mandatory dance, singing and piano lessons every weekend, leaving dad stuck with me.
That meant heading to Cocoa Beach many weekends to fish with his buddies. If you wonder if egos were just as big back then, dad named his 26-foot Scottie Craft boat the “Payola.” I didn’t know what the word meant until later.
I remember having many ”aunts” that hung around the little trailer we had there with a big screened porch off to the side where I was told to stay.
I remember being 15 miles offshore when dad would hand me off to another boat for the day, with an “uncle” who always had those layered sugar cookies for me to eat.
If we weren’t fishing, we were glad-handing between elections. We rode the Georgia-Florida Train from Orlando the Jacksonville annually as part of the campaign. I saw things on those trips it took years to understand.
As a teen, the fog kind of lifted for me. Dad would hit on my friends’ mothers, or anyone else’s. It ended when he divorced my mother and married my best friend’s mother. So my buddy became my brother. And the jig was pretty much up.
My mom, used to being at parties and big to-dos most of her married life, became a waitress at the Dutch Inn on International Drive in order to make a living. My sisters lived with dad in his new digs. I stayed with mom, whose life became a hollow cycle of embarrassment and shame.
She would come home from work so exhausted from being on her feet all day and getting stiffed on tips by foreign tourists, she’d soak her corns in Epsom salts and cry herself to sleep.
Tallahassee was, and still is, an oasis of dissipation and indulgences of every ilk. I can’t condone what so many of our elected leaders do behind the backs of their constituents, not to mention wives. But it is a culture of quid pro quo in which plenty of females get what they want while paying their moral piper — giving the same, whether for a job or a vote or just a good time.
Go to Clyde’s and Costello’s bar on Adams Street any afternoon during the spring and you’ll see more business being conducted than any eight-hour session inside the Capital. There’s more when it closes.
Maybe all this attention to the libidos of our elected leaders will curb the excesses. But I doubt it. They’ll just get smarter or more careful.
And their little boys may grow up wondering, too, why they can’t fish in dad’s boat anymore.
Jim is the Opinion Page Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-819-3487.