Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why Are There Blue America Billboards Up All Over Polk County?


The Blue America billboard up top went up on Tuesday on U.S. Highway 27 in Polk County, in Haines City to be more specific. We put a few different boards up on Winter Haven, Lake Wales, and Davenport. It wasn't something we were planning. In fact, our plan for FL-09 was to hold our collective breath and hope one of two excellent progressives, Dena Grayson and Susannah Randolph, would beat Florida's biggest NRA shill, conservative state Senator Darren Soto. Then Soto was endorsed by the New Dems. As of the August 10 FEC reporting deadline he had raised the most of anyone in the race-- $733,132-- and spent the most-- $676,176. But the two progressives, Susannah and Dena were competitive, with, respectively $693,663 and $535,036 raised. The only outside spending I detected was from a shadowy group called True Blue Florida that, I believe, is associated with Susannah and that spent $55,948 smearing Soto. There's no record of who put up the money.

My fear all along was that Susannah and Dena would split the progressive vote and Soto would win up winning the race. I was hoping one of them would put to the new district next door and challenge a right-wing fossil, John Mica, who could get swept away in an anti-Trump tsunami. Instead, the DCCC invented some candidate and inserted her into the Mica race. But then two things happened. Dena started consistently pulling ahead in polling so that it appears she would have the best chance to beat Soto. And then Holly Fussell, a friend of Susannah's had a pretty horrifying experience. I first heard about it from Lucy Flores, the Nevada Berniecrat. Yesterday I asked Holly and she sent me this and told me to share it with DWT readers.
The Hardest Part of Being a Working Woman
-by Holly Fussell

I’ve heard that the hardest part of being a working woman today is choosing between success in your career or your family. I don’t have kids-- but I’m still pretty sure that even if I did, this wouldn’t be true for me. The hardest part for me, being a working woman, is having to choose between success in my career and reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault.

During my time working with Susannah Randolph, candidate for Congress in FL-09, she told me that my many complaints of sexual harassment weren’t valid-- that they should be excused because the man had been drinking. After witnessing this same man threaten my career because I refused his advances, Susannah promoted him, and once again, encouraged me to forgive and forget because he had been drinking.

I recognize now that I should have told someone else I worked with-- but at that time, Susannah was the most senior female staffer, and she had also been my longtime friend and mentor. I trusted her judgment. I convinced myself that she was just looking out for my best interests. But she wasn’t. When this same man suggested that I increase our online fundraising numbers by sending a picture of my breasts to our email list, Susannah laughed right along with him.

After over a year of sexually harassing me without consequence, he raped me. I didn’t have the courage to report it at the time. I was terrified it would ruin my career, and doubted I would get any kind of justice anyway. I struggled to accept that this horrible thing had happened to me, and felt that I had nobody to go to who could give me advice, since the one woman I had always gone to for career advice had ignored my complaints.

I don’t blame Susannah for my sexual assault-- not in the slightest. That is the sole fault of the rapist himself. But I remain deeply disturbed that she ignored my very serious complaints for so long, and that she would promote a man she had witnessed sexually harass me. Perhaps even worse, although she knows I accused this man of rape, she continues to maintain a relationship with him (he was fired when I eventually told another supervisor about the situation, so I no longer have to work with him). You can find him on her campaign’s current FEC report over a dozen times.

It took me a long time to work up the courage to tell this story. I hoped that my post earlier this week, which didn’t include the graphic details, would be enough. But since posting that, I have received a number of complaints, mostly from progressive female activists, disgustingly enough, denying that these awful things happened to me, complaining of the timing of my post, and criticizing me for using Facebook to share my concerns.

But you know what? I tried to use different mediums, many different times over the past few years, and none of them have worked. I tried for so long to work this issue out privately. But that is no longer an option. I cannot sit by silently and watch Susannah Randolph be placed in a position of power, where she can continue to deny her employees’ accusations of sexual harassment, especially considering her continued relationship with my rapist. I can’t have that on my conscience.

I am not working for any of the candidates running against her, nor have I worked for any of their campaigns. Sharing my story has already cost me many of the people I believed were my friends, as well as my relationships with several progressive organizations that I’ve worked so hard to build. For the rest of my life now, when I apply for a job, people will know that I have complained of sexual harassment, and while that shouldn’t make me less employable, realistically, we all know it will hurt my future career prospects. But if I can stop her from doing this again, if I can stop this from happening to another girl, it will have all been worth it.

I’m not encouraging you to vote for anyone in particular. I’m simply encouraging to consider my story before you vote for Susannah.
I think that story getting around is horrifying and also liable to make it even more difficult for Susannah to beat Soto, which is my main concern for this primary. So we put this billboard up too. This one is on the I-4 west of exit 55 in Davenport.

Rather than ask you to contribute to the Blue America PAC's independent expenditure committee that pays for these kinds of things, I want to ask you to make a contribution to Dena Grayson's campaign instead. You can do that by tapping on the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer

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