Two Minnesota state lawmakers hit by sexual misconduct allegations announced Tuesday they would resign, less than two weeks after they were accused of misdeeds that ranged from groping colleagues to persistent unwanted sexual advances and sexting.
Democratic Sen. Dan Schoen, who allegedly grabbed a woman’s buttocks at a campaign event and made unwanted advances toward other women — including sending Snapchat photos of male genitalia to a female Senate employee — was the first to go, with his attorney saying Schoen had decided he could no longer be effective.
Hours later, Republican Rep. Tony Cornish said he would step down by Dec. 1. Cornish was the subject of an external investigation in the House into widespread sexual misconduct over his eight terms in office, including an anonymous lobbyist who told Minnesota Public Radio News that he propositioned her for sex dozens of times over the past several years and once forced her into a wall in his office while trying to kiss her.
Cornish said in his statement that he had reached an agreement with the lobbyist to apologize and resign by Dec. 1 in exchange for being protected against future claims. He also said: “I am forced to face the reality that I have made some at the Capitol feel uncomfortable and disrespected … I sincerely apologize for my behavior.”
It was unclear whether Schoen would make any similar admission at a planned Wednesday news conference. His attorney, Paul Rogosheske, indicated Schoen would dispute parts of the allegations made against him.
“He doesn’t feel he can be effective anymore,” Rogosheske told the Star Tribune. “And he doesn’t want to work in an environment like this.”
Their departures will close an acrimonious chapter that began when allegations about their conduct surfaced earlier this month, collectively involving at least six women who work in Minnesota politics. But some of the women who say they were victims of their harassment or unwanted advances said more allegations against other offenders may come to light.
“One senator’s resignation doesn’t change the culture. I want to change the culture,” Rep. Erin Maye Quade said after Schoen’s resignation. The freshman Democrat accused both men of making unwanted advances.
Both men faced immediate pressure to resign when the first allegations surfaced earlier in November. Both were initially defiant. Democratic leadership, from Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk — Schoen’s caucus leader — Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic Party chairman Ken Martin all called for Schoen’s resignation.