By Tom Tillison
As rape allegations swirl in the campaign of a high-profile Central Florida Democrat, how is it that the remarkable tale fails to strike the media’s fancy?
Particularly when that candidate, Susannah Randolph, champions herself as “a true fighter for women’s rights” and has racked up some impressive endorsements, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Holly Fussell is a young, impressionable Central Florida woman who cares enough about her community to get involved, even if she is misguided in her embrace of the secular progressive agenda — hey, we were all young once. But she may have received the wake-up call of a lifetime when it comes to the hypocrisy of the left.
A wake up call that centers around Randolph, a former ACORN community organizer running for Congress in Florida’s CD9. Randolph was Rep. Alan Grayson’s district director and is now pursuing the seat her old boss abandoned to run for the Senate. The same seat Grayson’s new wife, Dena Grayson, is also running for.
(Another remarkable aspect of this story is that ALL the relationships link back to Alan Grayson.)
Fussell worked as a digital director for the Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate campaign. It’s not clear if she is still with the campaign, but a screen shot of their website lists Holly Fussell as a staff member:
Fussell, who saw Randolph as a mentor, first went public with her story on Monday, August 15, with a Facebook post about Randolph ignoring complaints of sexual harassment she leveled against a co-worker, who Fussell said later became “violent” with her. That post led to a second, more detailed post a few days later that would include allegations of rape — Fussell would later publish the second post on Medium.com.
“Susannah Randolph is no friend to women,” Fussell wrote on the first day of early voting, encouraging voters NOT to support the woman she once called her mentor.
The second post, written Friday, upped the ante significantly with Fussell saying she was raped. Adding insult to injury, she charges that Randolph continues her relationship with the alleged rapist, even though the candidate is aware of what happened.
It appears that Fussell has not reported this alleged rape to the authorities and that is very concerning. In the interest of protecting women who work on future Democrat campaigns, she should summon the courage to file a complaint with police.
Her heartrending story, in her own words:
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.
While Fussell seems eager to get her story out, posting a link to the Medium.com article on social media, Florida Politics’ Scott Powers said in an exchange on Twitter that Fussell will not talk to him.
Adding to the controversy, a source who asked to remain anonymous said another Grayson staffer, Amy Ritter, “has issues with Randolph.”
Ritter was a long-time trusted lieutenant who worked with Randolph at Florida Watch Action, a left-wing activist group best known for the “Pink Slip Rick” campaign. She was also employed at ACORN Florida successor Organize Now before abruptly quitting last year with little explanation — Randolph is closely linked to the community organizing group.
“[Ritter] was allegedly sexually harassed and didn’t get the sort of support she thought she should get from Randolph and [Organize Now State Director] Stephanie Porta,” the source said.
“She posted about this on Facebook around the time that there was that blow-up about the ad that Randolph ran attacking Darren Soto; however, she has since deleted that post.”
Granted, Ritter and Fussell could have motive to want to see Randolph lose to Grayson’s wife and that would explain the media’s reluctance to engage on the story. Fussell’s unwillingness to cooperate would be a second strike, though she did address the question of motive.
“I am not working for any of the candidates running against her, nor have I worked for any of their campaigns,” Fussell wrote. “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.”
And her story takes on an air of legitimacy in the noteworthy responses from Anna and Ida Eskamani.
The sisters are prominent progressive activists in Central Florida. Anna is a new adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida and the director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, while Ida is a development officer with Equality Florida, the gay rights advocacy group — Ida played an instrumental role in the official Pulse Victims Fund that collected over $7 million for the victims of the terrorist attack in Orlando that claimed 49 lives.
The Eskamanis are frequent allies with Randolph, who just stood side by side with Ida during the much ballyhooed, if not meaningless sit-in at Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Orlando.
Did the Eskamanis denounce Fussell? Admonish her for spinning a yarn? Here are the reactions they left on Fussell’s second Facebook post alleging rape: