Washington - A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.
Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat Republican Kevin Yoder in a district that includes Kansas City in 2018, is one of the few, if only, women in public life to step down thus far amidst a national conversation about sex and power dynamics in the workplace. The vast majority of those accused of sexual misconduct have been men in public-facing industries like media, Hollywood and politics.
In a defiant letter posted on Facebook Friday, Ramsey defended herself from the charges made by a former subordinate years ago and blamed her decision on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of Democrats in the House. Ramsey said that the DCCC had decided "not to support our promising campaign."
"In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard," Ramsey wrote. "As a first-time candidate, I am disappointed and disillusioned by the political process."
DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly said that the organisation had not been involved in the primary, financially or otherwise.
"Members and candidates must all be held to the highest standard," Kelly said in an emailed statement. "If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office."
The allegations against Ramsey were outlined in a 2005 lawsuit and a complaint filed by a dismissed employee, Gary Funkhouser, to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, when Ramsey was working as an executive vice president of human resources at medical testing company LabOne, according to the Kansas City Star.
In the federal complaint about sex discrimination and retaliation, Funkhouser accused Ramsey, then Andrea Thomas, according to the Star, of making "unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos" when he was a human resources manager for LabOne.
Funkhouser alleged that he had suffered consequences at work because he had rebuffed an advance he said she made during a business trip in 2005.
"After I told her I was not interested in having a sexual relationship with her, she stopped talking to me," he wrote, according to documents filed in court. "In the office, she completely ignored me and avoided having any contact with me."
The EEOC closed its investigation in 2005, saying that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." Though Ramsey was not charged directly in the lawsuit, she had been named in the complaint. It was settled by the company after mediation in 2006 and had begun to be discussed in political circles recently, The Star reported.
Without naming Funkhouser, Ramsey said that a man decided to bring a lawsuit against the company after she eliminated his position.
"He named me in the allegations, claiming I fired him because he refused to have sex with me," she wrote. "That is a lie."
She said she would have fought to clear her name had the suit been brought against her.
"I would have sued the disgruntled, vindictive employee for defamation," she wrote. "Now, twelve years later this suit is being used to force me out of my race for Congress. Let me be clear: I never engaged in any of the alleged behavior. And the due process that I love, that drew me to the field of law, is totally denied."
A woman who answered the number listed in court documents for Mr. Funkhouser said, "We have no comment."
What is being called a national reckoning on sexual misconduct is unlikely to end any time soon. The political world has been shaken recently after US Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced he would resign over misconduct allegations that surfaced in news reports.
In the special senate race in Alabama on Tuesday, Democrat Doug Jones won in a shocking upset after accusations emerged that his opponent, Republican Roy Moore, had made sexual advances against teenage girls decades ago. And a group of women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct dating to his time before the presidency continue to occupy news headlines.
The seat Ramsey was running for is one of some 23 congressional districts - roughly the number of seats it would take to shift the balance in Congress from Republican to Democrat - that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election but are held by a Republican.
Ramsey, who said her campaign had been motivated by the Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, had been endorsed by Emily's List, a liberal women's group that has been raising money for female candidates.
The Washington Post