BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging his state’s top elections officer to step down after the man was accused of sexually harassing an employee.
The Democratic governor said Wednesday that Republican Secretary of State Tom Schedler “should immediately resign his position.”
“I’ve consistently said that any instances of sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated. Elected officials must live by an even higher standard,” Edwards said in a statement.
A lawsuit filed last week against Schedler accused him of sexually harassing an employee for years and punishing her after she rebuffed repeated advances. Schedler said he and his accuser had a “consensual sexual relationship.” The woman’s lawyerdenied that claim.
“Because of the number of specific and serious allegations in the lawsuit and the fact that he has admitted to conduct that by definition is sexual harassment, he should immediately resign his position,” Edwards said. “I believe this would be the best path forward for Tom and the state of Louisiana.”
Schedler’s spokeswoman said the secretary of state had no comment on Edwards’ statement.
The governor’s comments come after one of Edwards’ deputy chiefs of staff resigned in November amid sexual harassment allegations.
Edwards said that within 15 hours after his office learned of the allegations, Johnny Anderson was called in to discuss them and resigned. Similar accusations were lodged against Anderson by several women more than a decade ago when Anderson worked for Gov. Kathleen Blanco and was a university system board chairman. Anderson denies wrongdoing in both sets of claims.
Schedler is in his second term as Louisiana’s secretary of state. He is the most prominent Louisiana political figure to face sexual misconduct accusations as the #MeToo movement has unseated people in positions of power in Hollywood, the media and government across the nation.
In the lawsuit, the woman claims Schedler frequently sent her love letters, sexually propositioned her and showed up at her doorstep with unwanted gifts, including sex tapes. She claims Schedler enlisted help from state security personnel to report on her whereabouts. The lawsuit says the harassment began about a decade ago and escalated over the years.
The chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana said it’s too early to pressure Schedler to leave office.