Opponents deny link to text message attacking Baxter Troutman, but Jack Latvala may be the common denominator between Grimsley campaign and recently launched website touting the attack.
With just a week before next Tuesday’s GOP primary, the bar for what constitutes “fair game” for political attacks has, unsurprisingly, shifted lower. Typically, family members and their private lives are considered off limits.
But the spouse of one of the candidates says the bar has now dropped so low that her husband’s political rivals are resorting to “gutter politics.”
The most recent attack against GOP Ag Commissioner candidate Baxter Troutman came in the form of an anonymous text blasted out to GOP voters and political insiders. The text and photo referenced a story in the Lakeland Ledger of what has been characterized by Troutman’s wife as a “minor incident” between them that occurred several years ago.
Both Troutmans — they remain married — described the event as “embarrassing” and the result of an argument and “tossing of a bedspread” that led to a call to the local sheriff. The Lakeland Ledger reported that once a call is made to law enforcement, no matter the desires of the parties involved, “somebody is going to jail.” But no charges were filed and Troutman was allowed to return home shortly after the incident.
“You can call what happened that night embarrassing, but to describe it as domestic violence or battery is absolutely false,” said Becky Troutman. “This is gutter politics aimed at hurting my husband and our family and I find it shameful,” she added.
The couple expressed regret for things getting out of hand and acknowledge the mishap has made their marriage stronger.
“I love my husband and I know he loves me. Baxter is a good man, loving husband and wonderful father. What they are doing with these disgusting attacks on our family is plain wrong and the kind of gutter politics that everyone is sick and tired of,” she added.
“I regret what happened and the embarrassment it caused our family. Through faith and love for one another our marriage is stronger than ever and I am proud to have Becky by my side on this campaign,” said Baxter Troutman. “It’s disappointing but not unexpected that my political opponents would try cheap shots to hurt us and try to prop up their struggling campaigns.”
Becky Troutman serves as the Deputy Treasurer for the Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner and is the Chairman of his affiliated political committee.
Some election law experts say that whoever is behind these texts violated Florida law and sent the attack out illegally.
Through sources, two rival campaigns have both denied being behind the text attack.
Troutman is a farmer, rancher and business owner who served in the Florida House of Representatives for eight years. His challengers are Matt Caldwell, a State Representative from Fort Myers who works as a real estate appraiser, Denise Grimsley a State Senator from Sebring who works as a hospital administrator and Mike McCallister a retired Army Colonel who owns a tree farm in Plant City.
Despite the denials, campaign finance reports reviewed by The Capitolist show that Grimsley has paid a vendor listed as “JHSM,” which specializes in blast text messages to voters. Two separate $15,000 payments were made, the first from her campaign account, the second made only two weeks ago, from her political committee, called “Let’s Grow, Florida!”
Despite the large sums of money flowing to the text vendor, it is remains unconfirmed whether those payments were specifically from Grimsely to cover the cost of the text message attacking the Troutman family.
Aside from the large sums paid for text messaging, Grimsley has also been linked to disgraced Florida Senator Jack Latvala, who resigned earlier this year but still retained control over millions of dollars in his political committee. Grimsley participated in political finance operations with Latvala, and was a known vote in support of Latvala to lead the Florida Senate prior to the time allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties became public.
The Latvala connection is important because it further links Grimsely to the text message through David Bishop, a former paid political operative of Latvala, who this morning republished the unsavory text attack verbatim on his recently launched website purporting to be a legitimate news outlet called “FLA News Online.”