All four major Democratic candidates for Florida governor called on the chairman of the state party, Stephen Bittel, to resign Friday after Bittel apologized over accusations he created an uncomfortable work environment for women, the latest case of sexual impropriety rocking the state capital.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando businessman Chris King urged Bittel to step down after Politico Florida cited six anonymous women late Thursday who complained they found Bittel “creepy” over repeated inappropriate remarks, leering looks and invitations to join him on his private jet.
“These courageous women came forward with disturbing stories of harassment, and it’s our duty to stand in the gap for them and others in these situations,” Gillum said in a statement Friday. “Although these allegations are not criminal, they clearly paint a picture of a hostile working environment for women.”
In a statement of her own, Graham said she telephoned Bittel and asked him to leave his post. “No one should have to work in an uncomfortable environment,” she said. “Bittel’s behavior and the atmosphere he has created is unacceptable.”
Levine said he espouses a “zero tolerance for harassment in politics or the workplace.”
“It’s time to change the culture and it must start at the top,” Levine said. “I hope Chairman Bittel does the right thing and steps down as Chairman.”
King made reference to the wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations that have been made public recently against influential men in media, the movie industry and politics, including in Tallahassee’s insular state Capitol.
Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff