Fate of Oregon lawmaker accused of harassing five women will come to a floor vote

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The political fate of an Oregon lawmaker accused of harassing five women will come down to a vote on the House Floor next week.

The decision was made by the Oregon House Conduct Committee on Friday following five days of hearings on a 33-page report commissioned by the legislative Equity Office concerning state Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland.

The four-member body upheld 18 allegations against Hernandez from three of the women, all of whom worked at the Oregon state Capitol in some capacity in Salem with Hernandez.

Those allegations include efforts by the lawmaker to intimidate and coerce the women into beginning or maintaining relationships with him in the past several years. He is also accused of harassing them afterwards over text messages and phone calls.

State Reps. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland, and Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, voted Friday to adopt an amendment to a resolution to expel Hernandez. State Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem, was the sole no vote.

Hundreds of community organizers, state officials, unions members, and state lawmakers have called on Hernandez to resign in the past several weeks.

Among the newest members of the legislature to call for Hernandez’s resignation on Friday were Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego.

“We must believe survivors,” Wagner said. “We must be unequivocal in our stance against abusive behavior, and I take seriously my role in maintaining the Capitol as a safe and supportive work environment.”

On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown became the most powerful person in Oregon to call for Hernandez’s resignation and took time during a live COVID-19 vaccination press briefing to do it.

“If this were any other workplace, Representative Hernandez would have already been shown the door,” Brown said. “Quite simply, his behavior is unacceptable for anyone, let alone an elected official. He should resign immediately.”

Sanchez, a member of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color House Caucus along with Hernandez, expressed regret on Friday that the legislature might expel a man of color before a white man accused of the same offenses.

In 2018, Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, resigned his seat over sexual harassment allegations from several women, including state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.

Hernandez, who was re-elected in November, has denied the allegations against him and has accused his colleagues of leading a smear campaign against him.

His attorney, Kevin Lafky, wrote in a letter to the House Conduct Committee that their hearings shirked due process which included “a meaningful opportunity to respond and rebut the allegations” despite reading numerous statements from Hernandez to committee members this week.

Under the Oregon Constitution, Hernandez would have to see two-thirds of the legislature, or 40 House members, vote to remove him his House seat.

A date for the House vote has not been scheduled by House leadership.

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