Baxter Troutman
Photo from Lakeland Ledger

TroutmanJust a week before the August 28 primary, Republican voters across Florida are receiving this text message on their phones. It references Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Baxter Troutman’s 2012 arrest for domestic battery. A charge that was later dismissed.  It’s unknown who’s responsible for sending the widely received text.

Troutman knew this picture would likely surface in the campaign. That it took this long is the biggest surprise. And here’s a harsh fact for Troutman – if he wins the GOP nomination on August 28, voters will see a whole lot more of this picture.

The photo is from a court appearance following Troutman’s 2012 arrest for alleged domestic battery on his wife. The picture of Troutman in an orange jail jumpsuit will be plastered on TV ads and direct mail pieces. No matter the details of the incident. No matter that just three days after his arrest the state attorney decided not to prosecute the case. No matter that Troutman and his wife are still together and according to him, “We’re stronger today than we’ve ever been.”

In the year of the #MeToo movement when women feel empowered to right past wrongs, you can be certain Democrats will use this picture against Troutman.

Troutman is running two TV commercials on Fox News and local TV news throughout the state. One ad even features his wife. A wealthy citrus farmer and the grandson of the legendary Ben Hill Griffin, Troutman has the means to write a check of any size to fund his campaign. Of the $3.3 million he’s raised this year, $3 million came directly from him.

Self financing his campaign has given Troutman a sizable money advantage in the race against three other Republican candidates – Matt Caldwell, Denise Grimsley, and Mike McCalister. In a down ticket race – like Agriculture Commissioner – name ID is more of a driver than issues. Of Troutman’s opponents, only Grimsley is running TV commercials. In the past three election cycles, the candidate who raised the most money in a Florida Cabinet race won.

But will his unlimited funds be enough to overcome the dredging up of a past embarrassment that state prosecutors say wasn’t worth pursuing? With the very real possibility that women will be the Democrat nominees for governor and agriculture commissioner, could Troutman simply be collateral damage in what some describe as the Year of the Woman? We’ll know when GOP voters have their say on August 28.

David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.