This Week in Statehouse Action: So I Guess This Is Where We Are Now edition

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

A Democrat running for attorney general in Michigan has launched her campaign with an ad assuring voters that she’s someone who can be trusted “not to show you their penis in a professional setting.” Because that’s where we are right now.

The candidate, attorney Dana Nessel, pledges to “not sexually harass [her] staff” and “won’t tolerate it in your workplace, either.” She “won’t walk around in a half-open bathrobe.” She’ll “continue to take all sex crimes seriously,” noting her past work on the issue as a prosecutor. And she pledges not to use taxpayer dollars to “silence victims,” which seems like something someone shouldn’t actually have to say out loud but is actually a real mark of fiscal responsibility at this point. 

Campaign Action

In fact, none of these pledges seem like things a candidate for public office should ever have to say out loud. Except recent revelations about sexual harassment in the halls of government make these legitimate parts of any candidate’s platform—at any level of the ballot.

While the growing number of high-profile sexual harassment revelations clogs national headlines, accounts of sexual misconduct in statehouses inevitably receive less attention.

But giving down-ballot politics attention is kind of my jam, so I dropped a roundup last week. (It is, unfortunately but predictably, already slightly out of date.)

Because clicking and reading and then going back to that other thing you were reading is a pain, here’s the short version, with the latest developments:

  • In Colorado, two Democrats and two Republicans have faced accusations of sexual harassment from staffers, interns, and a fellow lawmaker, and the Democratic speaker of the state House has repeatedly called on one of those Democrats to resign. 
  • In Oregon, a Republican state senator has been accused of sexually harassing a fellow senator via multiple instances of inappropriate physical contact and subjecting as many as 15 other women to “unwanted touching.”
  • A powerful Republican lawmaker in Arizona has been suspended from his position as chair of the budget committee but so far has faced no calls from within his own party to resign over multiple allegations, some from sitting legislators, of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.
  • Two Democrats in California have been named in media reports of sexual harassment. One has been stripped of his leadership positions by his Democratic colleagues. The other, who was secretly disciplined for a groping incident that occurred when he was a top legislative staffer, before his election to the state Assembly, has resigned.
  • In Kentucky, Republican Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover stepped down from his post (but refused to resign his seat) after news broke of a confidential settlement of a sexual harassment claim he’d reached with a staffer.
  • Republicans in Florida have launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by GOP state Sen. (and gubernatorial candidate) Jack Latvala.
  • In Ohio, Republican Rep. Wes Goodman recently resigned amid accounts of “inappropriate behavior” that took place in his official House office (the House Speaker later said this behavior was a consensual—ahem—“interaction” between the married lawmaker and “a person not employed by the legislature”). Since Goodman’s resignation, however, dozens of accounts of his sexual misconduct have surfaced, many of them targeting young men.
    • Goodman’s resignation follows GOP Sen. Cliff Hite’s exit from the legislature last month after admitting to “hugs” and “inappropriate conversation” with a state employee. A recent report revealed that this “conversation” was actually repeated sexual propositions and some stalking behavior.
    • And it’s certainly not just lawmakers—it’s their aides, too. The Senate Democrats’ chief of staff also recently was asked to resign over allegations of “inappropriate conduct.”
    • Earlier this month, 30 women lawmakers and staffers signed an open letter asserting that the Ohio legislature is taking insufficient action to combat sexual harassment in light of recent revelations.
  • In Minnesota, multiple women have come forth with accounts of harassment by a Republican state representative and a Democratic state senator. Both lawmakers, Republican Rep. Tony Cornish and Democratic Sen. Dan Schoen, have announced that they will resign; their replacements will be selected in special elections early next year. 
    • Cornish’s seat is solidly Republican, but Schoen’s seat is one Democrats will have to work hard to keep: His 54th District went for Trump 46-45 in 2016, but Barack Obama carried it 53-45 four years earlier.
    • A Democratic woman has already stepped forward to run to replace Schoen. Karla Bigham is a local county board member and a former member of the state House.

Because, funny video aside, Dana Nessel has a point: Electing more women would almost certainly diminish the instances of sexual harassment in the halls of power. And not just because women don’t have penises to expose. (But I guess that doesn’t hurt.)