Grimes slightly sharpens her concern over harassment saga while her campaign hammers on women's issues

09/08/2013 04:58 PM

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes slightly ratcheted up her rhetoric Friday about the allegations of sexual harassment against a sitting Democratic state legislator but still declined to say whether the lawmaker should resign.

Instead, Grimes — a lawyer by training who is in her second year as secretary of state — said she agrees with “all efforts to hold” Rep. John Arnold accountable. Here’s her statement sent to Pure Politics in response to an inquiry about whether Grimes is joining other Democratic lawmakers in wanting to see Arnold step down:

“There is no place for harassment in the workplace, and such behavior is unacceptable. In the Secretary of State’s office, we have a ‘no tolerance’ policy for this type of behavior, and it should be that same way throughout state government. I am very disturbed by these allegations and support all efforts to hold Representative Arnold accountable through public and open hearings.”

Her comment comes as House Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo, an ally of Grimes, announced that the five-legislator panel he convened to conduct an internal investigation into Arnold’s conduct will have its first meeting Sept. 17. That panel is charged for reviewing the allegations brought by two Democratic House staff members that Arnold inappropriately touched them and made sexual comments to them. A third staff member filed a separate complaint against Arnold with the Legislative Ethics Commission. The panel, made up of two Republicans and three Democrats, can recommend the full House censuring or expelling Arnold.

Grimes has said little publicly about the allegations against Arnold, of Union County, even as her Senate campaign continues to make women’s issues a centerpiece of her run against Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Before Friday’s statement, Grimes’ campaign had issued a milder response to the Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth for his Aug. 25 column. Grimes said in that statement that the conduct outlined in the staffers’ complaints “should not be tolerated”

“Due process must be afforded to protect all parties involved, while also ensuring the public’s full confidence in the ongoing investigation,” she told Gerth in the statement.

Yet Grimes’ campaign spent much of last week blasting Republicans and McConnell for a spokesman’s comment that Grimes was an “empty dress.” Much of her campaign’s narrative early on has been that she would better represent Kentucky families and women. She often mentions McConnell’s votes against a final version of the Violence Against Women Act and against minimum wage hikes. That’s a theme McConnell’s campaign is all too aware of as it recently rolled out a parade of women supporters for McConnell.

The latest skirmish popped up when The Hill first quoted National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring as saying Grimes was an “empty dress” for parroting Democratic talking points or giving “incoherent” answers to policy questions.

National Democrats and Grimes issued several press releases and fundraising emails highlighting and criticizing the comment as sexist and tasteless.

“This statement was more than just a tasteless remark. It’s a reflection of a Senator whose priorities are wrong for Kentucky,” said one fundraising email from Grimes.


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