12 State Legislatures Jarred by Sexual Misconduct Allegations

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In the few months since Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault, at least 18 male state lawmakers facing allegations in a dozen states have resigned, announced they will resign, been ousted from a leadership position, or otherwise punished, a Stateline review has found. The accusations, coming amid the #metoo movement, have sent legislative leaders in multiple states scrambling to strengthen their policies and procedures to prevent harassment. More than half of the states have created new policies, instituted more regular anti-harassment training, made changes to how allegations are reported and investigated, or are reviewing their procedures.

But while their proposals are receiving praise, there’s a growing worry that they won’t lead to lasting change. Many women working in state capitols have seized this moment to reveal not only that they’ve been assaulted or harassed, but that they generally haven’t felt comfortable at work for years. Among other examples, Minnesota lobbyist Sarah Walker told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Republican state Rep. Tony Cornish had propositioned her for sex dozens of times and once forced her up against a wall to try to kiss her. Cornish is one of at least eight male lawmakers — in Alaska, California, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio — who have resigned or announced they will resign from the legislature since early October. At least nine other male state lawmakers — in Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington — have resigned or been removed from a committee role or other leadership position. One other lawmaker, New York Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, a Republican, received other punishment, including being told he could not hire interns and had to complete anti-harassment training. In Kentucky, state Rep. Dan Johnson, a Republican, took his own life just days after he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl in 2012.

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