WASHINGTON -- Florida State Sen. Darren Soto (D), a candidate for U.S. Congress, once had a reputation among his former colleagues for using his position of power to seduce local coeds -- so much so that Sen. Marco Rubio (R), then Florida House Speaker, played a prank on Soto to teach him a lesson about womanizing.
As first told by the Orlando Weekly, the story goes like this: Soto received a note on the House floor from a Florida State University student who claimed to be his secret admirer. Soto was so intrigued that he broke official House rules by venturing up to the visitors' gallery to meet the young woman. Rubio then stopped the House session, slammed his gavel down and accused Soto of perpetrating a serious rules violation, prompting the sergeant-at-arms to chase and handcuff Soto in front of his colleagues.
"When Darren [Soto] realized we knew he was up there, you could see him actually running down the hallway," one of his former colleagues told The Huffington Post. "Then of course everybody started laughing, then I think Soto at that point knew he'd been the victim of a prank. He was very embarrassed."
Soto's former colleague in the state legislature, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the young woman was a hired actress from FSU and that several of Soto's colleagues had conspired to plan the prank in hopes of putting a leash on the young, single lawmaker's notorious libido.
"To be a member of the House of Representatives in a college town, you know, it kind of is what it is," he said. "College girls were interested, obviously. You're a person of power, and there's a certain amount of respect that comes with that title. It was a little bit of star quality to the college girl, to be young and in that position."
The prank "may have served as a bit of a wake-up call" for Soto, said the former legislator. "You're a member of the Florida House. Let's be respectful."
Soto's campaign told HuffPost that the same prank has also been played on other state legislators before Soto. "As part of a long time Florida House tradition, Darren Soto's colleagues played a prank on him when he was a 30 year old, single legislator," said Christine Biron, a spokeswoman for Soto.
Soto is running in a crowded primary to replace U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D) in Congress. The Sunshine State News described Soto as "about as good as conservatives can hope for from his liberal Democratic district." Gawker pointed out that he has an A rating from the National Rifle Association and the backing of big business groups, and voted for anti-abortion legislation in Florida. Gawker also reported that Soto wrote an offensive song in law school about having sex with a very intoxicated classmate.
Soto's more left-leaning opponent in the primary race, former Congressional District Director Susannah Randolph, has been hitting Soto on his sexual antics and record on abortion and domestic violence issues. Dr. Dena Minning, a medical researcher and physician, and state Rep. Ricardo Rangel are also running against Soto in the primary.
Soto acknowledged that the song he wrote in law school was "in poor taste," and he said in a statement to The Huffington Post that he stands by his "long record of fighting for important women's rights."
"I successfully passed legislation doubling the statute of limitations for victims of rape and sexual assault, and led the constitutional arguments against the 24 hour waiting period bill," Soto said. "In Congress, I'll fight for pay equity and against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood."