Oregon State Sen. Jeff Kruse, who told an investigator that he refused to stop groping his female colleagues, now says he won’t step down—despite calls from 125 politicians and organizations, including some of his fellow Republicans.
A 51-page report commissioned by the state legislature this week revealed that Kruse’s alleged behavior—directed at female state senators, law students, lobbyists, and legislative aides—created a hostile work environment. On certain occasions, Kruse’s groping and inappropriate touching with female lawmakers was even caught on cameras in the chambers and committee rooms throughout the Capitol.
“I have no plan to do anything different than what I’m currently doing,” Kruse told The News-Review in Roseberg, Oregon, after the investigation was published. “I have significant issues with the report.”
Nearly everyone else apparently disagrees with Kruse’s plan to wait it out.
“State Senator Jeff Kruse’s time is up,” said an open letter signed by Basic Rights Oregon, NARAL Pro Choice Oregon, Oregon AFL-CIO, and more than 120 other groups and politicians. “Every minute Sen. Kruse remains in office, more women continue to be at risk.”
The Oregon Republican Senate Caucus also issued its own press release on Wednesday addressing the allegations.
“The behavior, if true, is obviously not acceptable,” said the release.
The caucus also notes that Kruse, a 22-year veteran of the state legislature, did agree to stay away from the statehouse over the next two weeks, before a public hearing on his conduct takes place on February 22. In the meantime, the Republican will reportedly continue to receive both his base legislative pay and a $142 per diem.
If Kruse still refuses to leave after the hearing, lawmakers can expel him from the Senate, but it would require 20 votes—all 17 Democrats and at least three Republicans, writes The Register-Guard.
At least five Republicans in the statehouse have so far released statements condemning Kruse’s behavior and asking for his resignation, including state Sen. Tim Knopp, who told reporters Kruse “must be held accountable” for his alleged misdeeds. Knopp added, “It is clear to me that there is credible and convincing evidence that is corroborated by witnesses that in fact Sen. Kruse violated” Senate conduct.
Knopp said he would vote to expel Kruse if necessary.
Republican Rep. Cedric Hayden echoed that sentiment, telling The News-Review that it was “disappointing” to see Kruse “digging in on this issue.”
At least seven women, including three fellow state senators, told the independent investigator—at times through tears—that they changed their dress or behavior at work in an attempt to escape Kruse’s attention.
Several of the women said they didn’t report the harassment sooner because they were “terrified” about how it could affect their careers. Others said they “felt trapped” by him.
When he was pulled aside and warned by male lawmakers about his behavior, Kruse admitted to the investigator that he “did not do anything to change his behavior at that time, because he did not know which females in the workplace had complained about him, and he did not want to stop hugging and touching all of them.”
He told her that his behavior was “instinctual” and that, “It’s not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years.”