On Thursday, state Sen. Nate Boulton “suspended” his run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The Des Moines attorney’s quest to become Iowa’s next governor is over. As it should be. He also should resign from the Senate.
On Wednesday, The Des Moines Register reported detailed accounts from three women who said Boulton touched them inappropriately and without consent. One incident occurred at a bar in November 2015 where Boulton repeatedly touched a woman’s buttocks — a story backed up by a witness. And while he attended law school 15 years ago, two women said he pressed his erect penis against their thighs while they talked at a bar.
Boulton did not deny these accounts, although he said he doesn’t have the “same recollection.” His campaign released a cringeworthy statement seeking to distance Boulton’s sexual misconduct in a “social setting” from “disgraceful” workplace harassment making headlines in Iowa and across the nation. His campaign sought to diminish his actions by insisting he was not in a position of power and there was no threat of retaliation.
Splitting hairs could not change the fact Boulton’s actions are disgusting and indefensible, regardless of the setting in which they occurred. And his “power” status as a well-known Des Moines attorney in 2015 can’t be ignored. His campaign shouldn’t have been spinning, it should have been ending. And now, that decision has been made.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable whether it occurs in a social or professional setting. What we have learned in the last 24 hours makes it clear to me that Senator Boulton should also resign his position in the Iowa Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, on Thursday. We agree.
It’s demoralizing to read the sad, maddening and sordid details of yet another case of misconduct roiling our Statehouse. We’ve seen big legal settlements, resignations, terminations and disturbing accounts of both harassment and repeated failures to combat it. Promises of “zero tolerance” have zero credibility.
But these cases, although painful, also are a sign of progress. Building a new road ahead necessitates smashing the old one. And the path forward leads to a place where men no longer grope, demean and assault without fear of consequences. We’re under no illusion misconduct will disappear, but the price paid by its perpetrators will be steep. Women who come forward will be believed.
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Public office is a public trust, and we no longer want leaders who can’t be trusted. Making that point clear as glass is far more important than the fate of any campaign, candidate or Senate seat.
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