Rep. Durham suspends campaign, but doesn't resign after damning report
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Williamson County lawmaker accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women says nearly all of the allegations in an attorney general's office report are either false or taken out of context.
Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham told reporters Thursday that he has never attempted sexual contact with any of the women in the report. Durham also said he was suspending his re-election campaign to focus on his family. But he stopped short of resigning or saying he would refuse to serve if elected.
Early primary voting starts Friday, so Durham's name is already on the ballot.
House Speaker Beth Harwell issued a statement calling Durham's denials insulting to the women in the report. She said he needs to make it clear he is not seeking re-election.
Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says a state representative accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women does not represent the current culture of the Legislature.
According to a report on Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham's behavior, when a legislative clerk told Durham his request for drinks was inappropriate because he was married and she was engaged, he responded, "Welcome to Capitol Hill."
Ramsey said Thursday that such comments from Durham make him want to "smack him in the mouth."
Ramsey said the report makes it clear that the way Durham used his position to get close to women is not the norm for Tennessee lawmakers.
Ramsey was meeting with House Speaker Beth Harwell on Thursday to discuss a new sexual harassment policy. Republicans hold a supermajority in the Tennessee General Assembly.
A group of Democratic women is calling on Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell to oust Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham after an investigation found he used his position to sexually harass at least 22 female interns, lobbyists, staff and political workers.
Harwell on Wednesday called Durham's behavior toward women "repulsive." But she stopped short of calling a special session of the legislature to consider an ouster, saying the voters of Durham's district should decide his fate.
A Wednesday report from a committee investigating Durham said any ouster would only last until November and not be binding on the next General Assembly.
At a news conference on Thursday, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said Harwell should have acted sooner and more decisively to protect women at the Capitol.