Top Oregon political figures called for Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, to resign immediately Thursday, one day after a fellow senator filed a formal complaint against him describing years of unwanted touching and sexual harassment.
"As more facts emerge and accusations surface, we now know his history of behavior is egregious," said Jeanne Atkins, chairwoman of the Oregon Democratic Party, in her statement calling for his resignation. "There must be consequences — not just never-ending investigations and warnings — for a sitting Oregon senator with this record."
The incidents described by Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, in her five-page complaint include allegations that Kruse whispered so close to her that his tongue was in her ear, that he ran his hands across her breasts, placed his fingers on her thigh underneath the hem of her skirt and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
Some of these incidents occurred on the Senate Chamber floor within eyesight of other lawmakers, who on two occasions interrupted Kruse's actions.
Gelser also wrote that at least 15 other women have had similar experiences with Kruse.
Kruse previously denied Gelser's claims. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, released a statement Thursday that said Kruse should "do the right thing" and resign, adding that a culture of unprofessional conduct has been acceptable at the Capitol for too long.
"The behavior of Sen. Kruse has no place in civil society or the workplace," said Buehler, a candidate for governor. "This is especially true for someone who holds the people's trust and should set a higher standard of behavior."
Kruse's hometown newspaper, the News-Review, called for his resignation in an editorial Thursday.
Other Republican representatives also called on Kruse to resign. On his radio program, Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, said as much, and Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West-Linn, said it would "probably be best" for his continents if he resigned, considering these allegations will make him less effective of a legislator.
Parrish added that Kruse was never "untoward" to her.
Earlier Thursday Parrish took to Twitter to ask newly elected Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters, R-Salem, to join the chorus seeking Kruse's resignation.
Winters did not respond to questions Thursday evening to clarify her position.
Statements by lawmakers Wednesday did not seek immediate resignation.
After the complaint was filed Wednesday, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said the claims would be fully investigated, while Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said Kruse should resign if "due process" found the allegations to be true.
According to the Oregon Legislature's personnel rules, an independent investigator must be appointed within 10 days of a formal complaint. The investigator then has 60 days to file a draft of the findings, though an extension is possible. A final draft is due 15 days after that to either the director of human resources or the Office of the Legislative Counsel.
This timeline suggests a report could be finalized early in the 2018 short legislative session.
Kruse has been reprimanded for inappropriate interactions with his colleagues before.
In her complaint, Gelser wrote that Kruse has attended multiple training sessions on sexual assault over the years and was told by top officials in the Capitol to stop his behavior after her informal complaints.
Related allegations in late October caused Courtney to strip Kruse of his committee assignments and write him a letter that read, in part: "Women in the Capitol do NOT want you to touch them."
"What troubles me the most is that it is clear Sen. Kruse is not interested or capable of changing his behavior even after it was previously documented and addressed by Senate Leadership," State Treasurer Tobias Read said. "It’s time for him to resign.”
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