Minnesota lawmaker: sexual harassment pervasive at Capitol

The Minnesota House meets during the final week of the legislative session.
The Minnesota House meets during the final week of the 2017 legislative session on Monday, May 15, 2017 inside the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A day after accusing a male lawmaker of sexually harassing her, state Rep. Erin Maye Quade said sexual harassment is a big problem at the Minnesota Legislature that goes beyond one person.

"This is a culture that just is very pervasive here in the Legislature," said Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley. "I don't want to anyone to think that it just happens to one senator, they resign and it's over with. It's whole behaviors that need to change by a lot of people."

On Wednesday, Maye Quade told the online publication MinnPost that prior to winning election to the House she received unsolicited text messages from state Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, that came off as a solicitation for an encounter at his home. The run-in with Schoen was while she campaigned for a seat she later won.

Since taking office in January, she said there have been other incidents involving other lawmakers.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

"I've had at least four men in the (Republican) majority make sexual comments, comment on my body, send sexual text messages, those kind of things," she said.

DFL Rep. Dan Schoen sponsored a bill requiring gun sale background checks.
DFL Rep. Dan Schoen was a sponsor of a bill that would require background checks for nearly all private gun sales, spoke at the Capitol office building in St. Paul on March 10, 2016.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2016

Maye Quade said she reported those incidents. That's why she and other Democrats are taking exception with a statement Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt made Wednesday to MPR News.

"We take sexual harassment in the Minnesota House very seriously," Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said. "And I have not had a specific complaint of sexual harassment since I've been speaker."

Since the MinnPost story Wednesday, a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers, including Gov. Mark Dayton, have called on Schoen to resign. Lindsey Port, who was a DFL House candidate, also told MinnPost of incidents where Schoen made unwelcome sexual remarks and touched her on the buttocks during a 2015 political party event.

Schoen said in a statement that the allegations "are either completely false or have been taken out of context." He said he regrets if any of his actions made someone feel uncomfortable or harassed.

Schoen also works as a Cottage Grove police officer. The city said he will be on administrative duty until the allegations are investigated. Officials there are looking at whether any of city policies were violated.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, was among those calling for Schoen to resign from the Legislature.

"These allegations are very serious and clearly a violation of the Senate rules on bringing dishonor to the institution," Bakk said. "I feel for the people that are victims and have come forward. It's a terrible situation for everybody involved."