Aug 15, 2022 - Politics

Sen. Gene Davis asked to resign by party leaders amid sexual harassment claims

Sen. Gene Davis wearing a blue blazer.
Democratic Sen. Gene Davis looks on from the Senate floor at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Photo: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Democratic party leaders are calling for Sen. Gene Davis to resign.

Driving the news: A former intern publicly accused the Salt Lake City Democrat of sexual harassment earlier this month.

The latest: In a statement on Friday, Thom DeSirant, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, said party leaders and members asked Davis to step down from his position in the Utah Legislature.

  • After Davis didn't resign, DeSirant said they voted to extend his suspension last week to include all party-related events while awaiting the outcome of a probe by the Utah Senate.
  • DeSirant also requested the Senate share its findings with the party.
  • Davis did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

What they're saying: "We find ourselves faced with multiple credible allegations of misconduct by Senator Davis and must err in favor of the safety and well-being of our members," DeSirant said.

  • He also added the party was reviewing its training for staff and volunteers about steps to take when a complaint is received.

Context: On Aug. 3, Sonia Weglinski, who worked as Davis' legislative intern and later as a campaign staffer earlier this year, alleged he invaded her personal boundaries, describing an incident where he wiped dirt off her buttocks against her will in a now-deleted Instagram post.

  • Two days after Weglinski's social media post, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams announced he was launching an independent investigation into the claims.

The big picture: Her allegations against the longtime senator have prompted a growing coalition of women in politics to denounce sexual harassment in the workplace and call for aggressors to be held accountable.

Yes, but: A year before Weglinski came forward, Elizabeth Converse, a former legislative staffer, accused Davis in a Facebook post of inappropriately putting his arm around her waist and suggesting body shots.

  • Weglinski said she believed her experience with Davis could have been prevented had the Utah Democratic Party held him accountable for previous sexual harassment claims.
  • In a previous statement this month, the party claimed it couldn't conduct an investigation unless a formal complaint had been received.

Go deeper: Davis has served in the Utah Legislature since 1987 and joined the Senate in 1999.

  • He lost his Democratic primary race against Nate Blouin in June.
  • His term ends on Jan. 1, 2023.
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