Oregon legislator resigns amid harassment allegations

Oregon legislator resigns amid harassment allegations
© Screenshot

Oregon state Sen. Jeff Kruse (R) said late Thursday he would resign his seat in the state legislature after an independent investigation found he had sexually harassed several women over many years in office.

Kruse, who has been in the legislature for 22 years, will serve through the end of the current legislative session, which runs until March 15. His resignation came in a brief two-sentence letter to Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R).

In a separate statement, Kruse continued to deny allegations made against him by at least two fellow legislators and several lobbyists and staffers.

Those allegations are detailed in a 51-page report released this week by a Portland-area law firm. The lawyer investigating Kruse’s behavior found a “longstanding pattern” of “unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace.”

His alleged improper behavior included hugging and touching, even after he received repeated warnings from legislative leaders. State Sen. Sara Gelser (D) said Kruse would kiss her cheek and at least once put his hand on her thigh.

The report also detailed allegations by a law student who worked in Kruse’s office in 2017, who said Kruse called her “sexy” and repeatedly touched her. Some staffers joked that Kruse was on a “smoke break” during sexual harassment training.

A lobbyist said Kruse had cupped her rear end while posing for a photograph with Gov. Kate Brown (D).

Kruse has been under scrutiny since Gelser first made her allegations public last year. State Senate President Peter Courtney (D) publicly reprimanded Kruse and ordered the door to his office removed after he repeatedly violated a ban on smoking in state Senate office buildings.

Pressure on Kruse to resign had been mounting even before the report was issued, though it intensified after the report came out. A group of 125 lobbyists and political groups called on Kruse to quit in a letter made public Thursday morning.

Kruse is the latest elected official to quit after allegations of harassment as the "Me Too" movement gathered momentum.

The list includes former Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy Ex-White House ethics counsel: More evidence against Trump than there ever was against Nixon 100 days after House passage, Gillibrand calls on Senate to act on sexual harassment reform MORE (D-Minn.) and former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersConyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father Conyers's son in danger of missing ballot in Michigan Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), along with state legislators in Minnesota, California, Ohio and Florida. Last week, the Arizona state House expelled a member accused of harassment in another independent report.