Oregon state lawmakers call on Senator Jeff Kruse to resign

Oregon state Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg. (KATU File Photo)

The chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon is calling on Senator Jeff Kruse to resign, after a formal complaint was filed Wednesday that said the senator harassed 15 women.

As reported by the Associated Press, in the five-page complaint, Sen. Sara Gelser says Sen. Jeff Kruse touched her breasts, put his hand on her thigh during a committee hearing, slipped his fingers under the hem of her skirt, kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear so closely that it left her ear and cheek wet. At least 15 other women have reported problems with Kruse, including another female senator, Gelser wrote.

Gelser is calling on Kruse's expulsion from the legislative body.

Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon, released a statement Thursday, also calling on Senator Kruse to resign:

She writes:

As news coverage continues to build across the nation and our state revealing the pervasive harassment and physical assaults against women in every sort of workplace, I call on Oregon State Senator Jeff Kruse to resign today.
Enough is enough.
As more facts emerge and accusations surface, we now know his history of behavior is egregious. There must be consequences -- not just never-ending investigations and warnings -- for a sitting Oregon senator with this record.
I commend Senator Sara Gelser and others for coming forward to tell their stories. I have no doubt that they speak for countless other women in the Oregon Capitol and workplaces across our nation.
To be clear, this is not a uniquely political or partisan issue. We are all responsible for a culture that too often turns a blind eye against systemic sexual harassment and discrimination.
I hope that this flood of stories from women and men alike who have experienced harassment in Oregon serves as a wake up call. In particular, I call on perpetrators to wake up to the fact that their behavior will no longer be tolerated. The immediate resignation of Senator Kruse would demonstrate that the message has been heard.

Other Oregon lawmakers are also calling for Kruse's resignation.

On Thursday, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, called on Senator Kruse to resign immediately.

Buehler writes in a statement:

The recent allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and inappropriate behavior in the Oregon Capitol have elevated important conversations about workplace conduct, the role that power plays in relationships between men and women and the importance of validating women who come forward to share their stories of abuse and humiliation. What's clear is that for too long casual attitudes and unprofessional behavior has been accepted in the Capitol. This unfortunate culture knows no party affiliation and exists whether you're an elected official, staff, or lobbyist. This is a moment for change.
“I believe the multiple allegations against Sen. Kruse and I respect the courage of those who have come forward. The behavior of Sen. Kruse has no place in civil society or the workplace. This is especially true for someone who holds the people's trust and should set a higher standard of behavior. Throughout this process, Sen. Kruse has lost the personal credibility and ability to effectively serve the people of Oregon. That’s why today I called Sen. Kruse and urged him to do the right thing and immediately resign. And finally, I would also encourage the Senate President and Speaker of the House to not only work to improve the process and approach for addressing allegations of unacceptable behavior but, as important, aggressively work to change and improve the workplace culture that, regrettably, exists in our Capitol.

State Treasurer Tobias Read is also calling for Senator Kruse to resign.

Read issued the following statement Thursday:

For generations, large portions of our population were explicitly excluded from equal participation in our political process and our government. In recent weeks, on both the local and national level, we have started a long overdue but necessary conversation about the numerous other ways in which power can be used to create hostile and unwelcoming workplaces and to reassert traditional hierarchies in our public sphere. Women and men from across the country are speaking up and rightfully demanding accountability.
“I have known Senator Gelser for years, and have admired her passionate advocacy for those who are oftentimes excluded or marginalized. Her accounts of Senator Kruse’s behavior are concerning and warrant investigation and action. What troubles me the most is that it is clear Senator Kruse is not interested or capable of changing his behavior even after it was previously documented and addressed by Senate Leadership. Even more disappointing is his failure to take responsibility for the impact of his behavior on Senator Gelser and other women and men who come to work in the Capitol and participate in our democratic process without the threat of harassment or abuse.
“A resignation by Senator Kruse would demonstrate that he is willing to accept responsibility and put the state and its citizens first. Most importantly, it would send a signal to Oregonians that our government is open, accessible, and respectful to everyone. It’s time for him to resign.

In response to Gelser's formal complaint, Senate President Courtney said the Senate would launch an independent investigation.

"The Senate takes the filing of a formal complaint very seriously. Senate rules require that we provide 'a safe and respectful workplace that is free of harassment,'" Courtney wrote in a statement.

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