Flores, Braynon should continue to serve — but affairs of state must be their priority

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Florida Sens. Anitere Flores and Oscar Braynon II acknowledged their extramarital affair as the legislative session opened.
Florida Sens. Anitere Flores and Oscar Braynon II acknowledged their extramarital affair as the legislative session opened.

Well, it’s not the kind of bipartisanship that we had in mind.

On Tuesday, as the Florida legislative session kicked off, the extramarital affair between leaders in the Senate, one a Democrat, the other a Republican stole most of the headlines.

It stole the thunder from Gov. Rick Scott’s final State of the State address and the spotlight he hoped to give to Florida’s opioid epidemic and improving the lives of children in the foster-care system.

Instead, the day’s focus was on the details of the adulterous affair of Republican Anitere Flores, of Southwest Miami-Dade and Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon II, both married with children.

At a time when the national conversation is about sexual intimidation that powerful men impose on vulnerable women, a garden-variety affair between two consenting adults doesn’t seem to rise above the level of titillating gossip. But sexual misadventures in America are under scrutiny, thanks to film producer Harvey Weinstein being outed.

Flores and Braynon, two lawmakers whom the Herald Editorial Board has recommended for office several times and who are respected, accomplished leaders in the Miami-Dade delegation, took their eyes off the ball and have subjected us to the peephole videos outside their love nest.

The senators are only human. The hurt and outrage their behavior has caused in their private lives and relationships are their burdens to bear.

But the same can’t be said about the public costs. We said it last month when serial sexual harasser Jack Latvala resigned his Senate seat, and it bears repeating: “We Floridians are not sending you to Tallahassee to cheat on your wife, step out on your husband, make your children cry, spew racial slurs, grope an aide or put your hand up a lobbyist’s skirt — especially when it’s on our dime. Especially when each resignation leaves some of us without representation. Especially when we have to pay for contentious special elections to replace the shamed.”

Instead of hearing the important issues lawmakers planned to tackle this session, Floridians saw videos, filmed through a peephole, of Flores’ back and forth to Braynon’s apartment. The two were living steps from each other across the hallway of a Tallahassee condominium.

To add to the intrigue, Braynon found a hidden camera on the floor where they lived during the 2017 legislative session.

Suspecting what may have been on the horizon for him, Braynon tried to downplay the importance of extramarital affairs. After the resignation of Sen. Jeff Clemens for having an affair with a lobbyist, Braynon cautioned his entire chamber to focus on cases of sexual harassment, rather than what he called “consensual” relations. Like those he and Flores were having.

As for the hidden camera, at the time Braynon discovered it, he intimated that former state Sen. Frank Artiles might have had a role. The Miami Republican resigned from the Senate last year after using racial slurs at a private club with two black senators. Braynon played mediator in the incident. His colleagues said Artiles was out for revenge.

If there’s any truth to that one, file it under “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Right now, we don’t think either Flores or Braynon should resign. However, we are concerned that their effectiveness as Senate leaders will be diminished. For the sake of their constituents and their credibility, they should think long and hard before seeking public office again.