Freshman Democrat Katie Hill denies improper relationship with staffer

Freshman Democrat Katie Hill denies improper relationship with staffer
© Greg Nash

Freshman Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillKatie Hill pens op-ed about Congress resignation, toxic marriage, mental health and resilience Young Turks founder: Past remarks on women were attempt 'to be a stupid, politically incorrect Republican' Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (D-Calif.) is denying allegations that she had an improper relationship with a member of her staff, and said the accusations are stemming from her divorce from "an abusive husband."

“The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain,” she said in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.

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“This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed," she added. "I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”

Hill was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with a staff member, according to an article published last week in the conservative publication RedState.org. The story cited text messages it says were between Hill's husband, Kenny Heslep, and an unidentified friend of the couple.

The unidentified friend informed Heslep in the text messages about an alleged relationship between Hill and Graham Kelly, who previously served as Hill's finance director and is now her legislative director.

“Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in Tuesday's statement. “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view and the vindictive claims of my ex have now involved the lives and reputations of unrelated parties.”

Hill called the allegations in the RedState article a "smear campaign." Kelly is not quoted in the RedState story.

When contacted by The Hill to reach Kelly for comment, Hill’s office said it was not handling questions about the allegations.

Hill’s statement on Tuesday was shared by an outside campaign strategist.

According to House rules, a member “may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves.”

The RedState story also posted a nude photo of Hill and alleged that she and Heslep were engaged in a consensual relationship with a female staffer on Hill’s campaign.

Hill, who identifies as bisexual, said Capitol Police are investigating the situation to find out who distributed and posted the photos of her and the unidentified woman. The woman’s face is blurred in published images.

“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said in her statement, adding that she will have no further comment “on the digital materials.”

Hill said the “smear campaign” will not get in the way of the work she is doing in Congress.

“I am truly grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from colleagues and constituents alike, and I know we will get through this together,” she said.

Hill flipped a GOP seat previously held by Steve Knight, one of the races that helped Democrats win back the House majority in the 2018 midterms.

Several Republican candidates are vying to challenge her in 2020.