State Legislators Survive Sexual Misconduct Charges

Twenty-five state lawmakers who have been accused of sexual misconduct are running for re-election or another office this year. Of those, 15 have already advanced to the Nov. 6 general election, the Associated Press reports.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Kentucky legislators have become so common that the statehouse has seemed more like a frat house: Seven have faced accusations, including four who settled secretly with a female legislative aide. The voters’ response has mostly been to keep them in office, the Associated Press reports. Of the five lawmakers up for re-election this year, three easily made it through their party primaries and will be favored to retain their seats in November. The other two chose not to run. An Associated Press review found that 25 state lawmakers who have been accused of sexual misconduct are running for re-election or another office this year. Of those, 15 have already advanced to the Nov. 6 general election. Seven did not even face a challenger in their primary.

Cassaundra Cooper, who filed a sexual harassment claim against a former Kentucky lawmaker in 2013, wonders why voters would re-elect public officials accused of sexual misconduct, or simply choose to ignore the allegations. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the growth of the #MeToo movement, any assumption that accused office holders would be political pariahs is not borne out on the state level. By comparison, virtually every member of Congress accused of sexual harassment has resigned or opted against running for re-election. Political scientist Kelly Dittmar of Rutgers University said the political success of accused state lawmakers suggests that voters are unsure how to respond. Does a private failing disqualify someone from serving in public office? “We don’t have an answer for that,” she said. That is true even in states where voters historically support female politicians and traditionally liberal issues. In California, of the six state lawmakers who faced misconduct allegations and ran for re-election or another office, four advanced to the general election.

from https://thecrimereport.org