Minnesota Lawmakers Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

Mitchell Rolling

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Sexual harassment allegations have been sweeping the Minnesota Capitol recently, resulting in the resignations of one Republican Representative, Tony Cornish, and one Democratic Senator, Dan Schoen

The resignations came within hours of each other, both lawmakers being asked by their party leaders to step down in the wake of their accusations. 

But their resignations come under different conditions. 

Representative Cornish has come out and apologized for making “some at the capitol feel uncomfortable, and disrespected.” He specifically apologized to his primary accuser, Sarah Walker. 

Walker recently put out a statement where she expressed her “deepest hope” that this episode will bring about “long-term institutional changes that will allow hardworking, dedicated, and intelligent women” to do their work without fear of harassment. 

She has also detailed some of her encounters with the representative. She claims that in 2010, as she got up to leave Cornish’s office, he interjected and said, “[l]ook down. I have a raging boner. You can’t leave.” In another alleged incident, he pushed her against the wall in an attempt to kiss her She pushed back and ran out the room. 

Cornish, denying the allegations at first, later acknowledged that he mixed work with attempts at a sexual relationship with a lobbyist. Scott Flaherty, Cornish’s attorney, shared the details of the settlement with Walker as issuing an apology, resigning from office, and paying for Walker’s legal fees. 

“What he did was not OK,” Flaherty said, “but it was a good apology and he was sincere and he should be applauded for that sincerity.”

Senator Schoen, on the other hand, has continued to deny his allegations. He describes the accusations as being “either completely false or… taken far out of context.”

“I also unequivocally deny that I ever made inappropriate contact with anyone.”

Schoen’s lawyer, Paul Rogosheske, said that they were ready to release information proving the senator’s innocence, but Schoen has decided to resign anyway.

“[H]e doesn’t want to work in an environment like this.”

The allegations against Schoen include one from Lindsey Port, a DFL candidate in 2016 and running for office again next year. She claims that at a DNC convention in 2015, Schoen commented on her butt and later grabbed it. 

Maye Quade also alleges that the senator sent her text messages inviting her to have drinks with him. One of the messages, apparently not meant for her, said, “I almost got her. Working on her pretty hard, but I almost got her.”

Quade has also released a statement, stating that one “senator’s resignation does not change the culture. I want to change the culture.”

Another accuser, an employee of the Senate, claims to have received a message from Schoen and his male genitalia. His lawyer Rogosheske said that the message was intended for someone else who Schoen had a sexually intimate relationship. 

The allegations and resignations have fallen in line to a general theme of Minnesota politics. The two Minnesota lawmakers join Senator Al Franken and MPR talk-show host Garrison Keillor in recent allegations leveled against Minnesotans in the political world. 

When they are out of office, Governor Dayton will have the authorization to call special elections for the two open spots. 

Representative Cornish’s area is a Republican stronghold and is not expected to shift parties. Senator Schoen’s district is more competitive than Cornish’s because his district already has two Republican representatives. 

These resignations have given rise to a question over whether the controversy in Minnesota will end or if they will spark more allegations against new people.