UPDATE (Feb. 8, 6:52 p.m. PST) — Oregon state Sen. Jeff Kruse has resigned his post in the Legislature after an investigation revealed a pattern of unwanted touching and harassment at the Capitol.
Kruse announced his resignation in a statement Thursday evening, saying he continues to deny allegations against him. Kruse’s resignation is not effective until March 15.
“[T]oday I tender my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians without distraction and my constituents may receive the fullest representation they are due,” the statement reads.
The independent investigation into behavior by the senator showed Kruse had a pattern of “engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace.”
Kruse is a Roseburg Republican who has served in the state Legislature for more than two decades.
Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, was one of two senators who filed a formal complaint against Kruse, sparking the independent investigation. Gelser, who was featured as one of Time Magazine’s People of the Year among the “Silence Breakers,” said she was thinking of the several other women, including two law students assigned to Kruse’s office and a lobbyist, who all told an independent investigator they were harassed by Kruse.
“I understand that was terrifying, but they made all the difference,” Gelser said. “They were brave and they were smart. And to any women in this building — find someone who believes you and don’t feel like you have to apologize for it. Time is up on that attitude.”
Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, was the other state senator who filed a formal complaint. She said Kruse’s resignation was relieving.
“I think this gives all of us a chance to move forward,” she said.
Republican Senate Caucus Leader Sen. Jackie Winters praised Kruse for his years of service.
“He has been a true advocate for his district and rural Oregon,” Winters said. “As we move forward, we must work to provide a safe work environment for all.”
A long list of lawmakers, including Gov. Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek, had called on Kruse to resign following the investigation’s release.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said it was the “right decision.”
“While Senator Kruse’s resignation ends a difficult chapter for the Legislature, we cannot allow it to end this discussion,” Courtney said in a statement. “We owe it to the courageous women who came forward to seize this moment.”
A special conduct committee had been scheduled to meet Feb. 22 to hear from Kruse and his accusers.
Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, is mentioned in the investigation as intervening after Kruse was behind a member of her staff with his hands on the staffer’s arms. Burdick told him, according to the report, “get your hands off my staff.”
In a statement Thursday, Burdick said “it was past time for Senator Kruse to resign. We now have work to do to make our Capitol a harassment-free workplace, and that all individuals are respected.”
In his statement, Kruse said he will continue to deny the allegations that he harassed female colleagues.
“I continue to deny these allegations and I regret that I will not have the opportunity to defend myself before the Senate Conduct Committee,” he said.
Douglas County’s Board of Commissioners will select Kruse’s replacement.