By Ryan Dailey, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Six months away from becoming the state House Democratic leader, Rep. Ramon Alexander on Thursday announced he won’t seek re-election this year to his North Florida seat amid a controversy involving sexual-harassment allegations.
Alexander was chosen last year to become House Democratic leader after the 2022 elections for a two-year term. But his announcement Thursday left Democrats seeking a new successor to outgoing Leader Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach.
Alexander, who represents Gadsden County and part of Leon County, became embroiled in controversy this week after a report by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper detailed allegations made by a former Florida A&M University employee.
Michael Johnson, Jr. was fired by the university in January after working as an associate athletic director since June 2020. After his termination, Johnson filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Human Relations that included accusations that Alexander groped him and sent him sexually explicit images, according to the newspaper report.
In the newspaper report, Alexander described a consensual relationship with Johnson — which Johnson denied.
The 37-year-old Alexander is married with two children. A 2007 graduate of FAMU, Alexander has close ties to the university after serving as its student-body president and on its Board of Trustees. In January, Alexander delivered the school’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation address.
Alexander issued a three-paragraph statement Thursday about his decision to forego re-election to the House. The statement did not mention the allegations against him.
“Words will never fully describe how truly grateful I have been over these many years, to represent and fight for my community in the Florida Legislature. Meaningful public service has always been about making a significant difference in the lives of others without self promotion, spectacle or fanfare,” the statement said.
Alexander added that it was after “thoughtful consideration and personal self reflection” that he decided to not seek re-election for what would be his final term in the House.
The controversy derailed Alexander’s political career and came as Democrats try to gain seats in the Republican-dominated House.
During the 2022 legislative session, Alexander, who served as Democratic whip, received national media attention for an impassioned speech in opposition to a bill (HB 7) that sought to limit how certain race-related topics can be taught in public schools and in workplace training. Gov. Ron DeSantis last month signed the measure, which was an outgrowth of DeSantis’ fight against critical race theory.
Jenne, who faces term limits this year, said in a statement Thursday that Alexander and his family “are in my thoughts as they navigate into this next phase of their lives.”
“In the near future, our caucus will meet to elect a new leader designate to take over when I leave office in November. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on tackling the problems of the state and improving the lives of all Floridians,” Jenne said.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, was elected by House Democrats to succeed Alexander as leader in 2024.
It was not immediately clear if Driskell would become leader in November. But if so, she would become the third House member chosen to follow Jenne.
Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, had initially been in line to take over after Jenne, but he decided to run for Congress instead of seeking another term in the state House. Diamond on Thursday suspended his campaign for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat.
It also was not clear who might run for Alexander’s House seat. He was the only candidate who had opened a campaign account in House District 8, according to the state Division of Elections website.