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Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box

Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box

YUMA, Ariz. — In Arizona, the list of women accusing former State Representative Don Shooter of sexual harassment includes a Republican colleague, a Democratic legislator, at least two lobbyists, a newspaper intern and the former publisher of The Arizona Republic.“I’m a sucker for the pretty ladies,” Mr. Shooter is said to have told one woman…


YUMA, Ariz. — In Arizona, the list of women accusing former State Representative Don Shooter of sexual harassment includes a Republican colleague, a Democratic legislator, at least two lobbyists, a newspaper intern and the former publisher of The Arizona Republic.

“I’m a sucker for the pretty ladies,” Mr. Shooter is said to have told one woman while shaking his pelvis in her face.

More than 1,000 miles to the northwest, State Representative David Sawyer, a Washington Democrat, has been accused of unwelcome advances, inappropriate remarks or other misconduct by at least eight women, including former legislative aides and a lobbyist he asked to be his “arm candy.”

Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, Mr. Shooter and Mr. Sawyer are among more than a dozen politicians who have been accused of misconduct and are running for state legislatures again anyway.

apologized for any demeaning comments, then dropped his microphone in a defiant clatter. Security guards escorted him off the Capitol grounds.

told a reporter.

Now Mr. Shooter is running for office again, hoping to jump from the State House to the State Senate to represent a district that stretches north from Yuma, near the Mexican border, across family farms and military bases and into the suburbs of Phoenix. He maintains that he was ousted not for his coarse behavior but because he was scrutinizing alleged spending violations in state government.

His campaign strategy includes a billboard he has placed on a highway leading into Yuma. “Vote Shooter,” it reads, “Make a Liberal’s Head Explode.”

Mr. Shooter has represented the area in the past, as both a senator and a representative, and though he has been abandoned by much of the Republican party establishment, even his critics say he has a chance to win.

J.D. Mesnard, the Republican speaker of the House, cited a “block of folks that would go off the cliff with him.”

Mr. Shooter has two opponents in the Aug. 28 primary, including the incumbent, Sine Kerr, 56, a dairy farmer serving her first term. Ms. Kerr has been crisscrossing the vast district to speak with voters, but she only discusses Mr. Shooter when she is asked about him.

“It’s up to the voters, ultimately,” Ms. Kerr said, explaining that she prefers to focus on issues like figuring out how to help farmers caught up in President Trump’s trade war. “The tragedy for our district is, you know, these are very important, critical times,” she said. “If he were to get elected, he would be completely ineffective. I don’t think anybody at the Legislature, the other members, would be excited about working with him,” she said of Mr. Shooter.

also faced allegations of harassment, and has survived. Mr. Shooter, at least, had apologized. “That’s enough,” he said. “That should be enough.”

‘We’ve put politics over the safety of women.’

In Spanaway, Wash., Melanie Morgan went on the attack 37 seconds after meeting Ralph and Caroline Cantrell.

local news organizations. Mr. Sawyer has not been accused of physical misconduct, but women said he sent inappropriate text messages, made remarks about their appearance, sprinkled sexual innuendo into conversation and sought a relationship over a woman’s protests. He has denied some of the allegations.

His decision to run for re-election invited distinct but intertwined deliberations that have played out in different ways across the country: how the political establishment should respond, and whether and how his accusers should seek his electoral unraveling. The answers in Washington led to a message striking for its starkness: that Mr. Sawyer, as one piece of direct mail put it, needs to be stopped “from harassing any more young women working in the State Capitol.”

“A lot of folks in party leadership or political leadership are grappling with how to handle these issues,” said Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, who endorsed Ms. Morgan. “We’re seeing it more frequently: ‘Do I speak up? Do I endorse their opponent? Do I stay out of it?’”

There has been no consensus. More than once, Ms. Morgan said, she has been rebuffed by people who told her they could not go against an incumbent, no matter his personal history. In public and in private, some Democrats have questioned whether they should be spending precious campaign dollars fighting one of their own incumbents.

Mr. Sawyer, seeking his fourth term at the marbled Capitol in Olympia, is vowing to “stand tall” and not “bend to the will of Seattle money.”

But Ms. Gavre is having none of it. Sitting at a coffee shop near posters declaring “We the People Defend Dignity” and “We the People Are Greater Than Fear,” she argued that Mr. Sawyer deserved to be met with an organized campaign to derail his political career.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” she said, “but what I know is that either way, it sends this really clear message.”

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