Leg­is­la­tors wrongly pro­tect An­der­son

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By K.C. Kelle­her K.C. Kelle­her is a res­i­dent and com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer in the 43rd District. Her email is kelle­herkc@gmail.com.

On June 15, The Bal­ti­more Sun re­ported that five women have ac­cused Del. Curt An­der­son of vary­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing as­sault, go­ing back to at least 2004. This was hardly a sur­prise to me, how­ever. One of the first things I was taught as a woman or­ga­niz­ing and work­ing in the po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­nity scene of the 43rd District is to avoid Del­e­gate An­der­son at all costs. Don’t sit next to him at the ta­ble, don’t take in­di­vid­ual meet­ings with him, and don’t take your con­stituent is­sues to him.

But now, vot­ers have es­sen­tially cho­sen to give him an­other four years. He was among the top three Demo­cratic Pri­mary vote get­ters, ac­cord­ing to fi­nal elec­tion re­sults. This is un­ac­cept­able, par­tic­u­larly in a district that also fea­tures strong fe­male lead­ers as part of the del­e­ga­tion team.

If the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly Ethics Panel took quicker ac­tion to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions against Del­e­gate An­der­son and re­lease the re­sults of their find­ings, I be­lieve — de­spite his de­nials of the al­le­ga­tions — he would not have been re-elected. In­stead, the panel mem­bers, of­fi­cials elected to act in our best in­ter­ests, have been “in­ves­ti­gat­ing” him for months, with no res­o­lu­tion. Is this ig­no­rance, al­le­giance or de­nial?

Two other leg­is­la­tors in the 43rd, Del. Mag­gie McIn­tosh and Sen. Joan Carter Con­way, who lost her seat in the re­cent elec­tion, were com­plicit in Del­e­gate An­der­son’s re-elec­tion, in spite of the wide­spread al­le­ga­tions of ha­rass­ment. They talked with him about the claims, ac­cord­ing to The Sun, and then sim­ply ac­cepted his of­fer to run on a sep­a­rate ticket.

Ms. Con­way even went so far as to ap­pear to blame the vic­tims. “He didn’t want it to stick to us as though we were up­hold­ing some­one ac­cused of mis­treat­ing women,” she re­port­edly said. “We all know al­le­ga­tions are dam­ag­ing” even if they’re not true.

For nu­mer­ous prior elec­tion cy­cles, how­ever, these three pooled re­sources and shared an elec­tion slate with Del­e­gate An­der­son, and through Jan­uary 2018 their names ap­peared on nearly all of Del­e­gate An­der­son’s cam­paign fi­nance re­ports.

Mary Wash­ing­ton, too, has pre­vi­ously been in­cluded on this slate as a del­e­gate. Now a se­na­tor-elect, she is the only elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the 43rd to openly con­demn the pace of the ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mr. An­der­son and ask for an in­terim re­port on its progress from the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

As many quiet de­fend­ers of the es­tab­lish­ment point out, An­napo­lis is a place of old-school pol­i­tics. In Jan­uary, The Wash- in­g­ton Post in­ter­viewed an anony­mous rep­re­sen­ta­tive who ex­plained that when it comes to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mis­con­duct, “There is not re­ally a safe en­vi­ron­ment to dis­cuss the is­sue. For me to come out and iden­tify, it would be me ba­si­cally de­cid­ing to lose my ca­reer and cred­i­bil­ity. And that's the way it is un­der­stood in An­napo­lis.”

I’ve been a vic­tim of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault. Thank­fully, my per­pe­tra­tors are not elected to rep­re­sent me. We­oweit to the sur­vivors, the wom­en­rep­re­sen­ta­tives in govern­ment and to the peo­ple of the 43rd to not send Del­e­gate An­der­son back to An­napo­lis. If cul­ture change in An­napo­lis has to start in Bal­ti­more, so be it.

We need all our elected of­fi­cials to take a stand — not just a Face­book sta­tus de­nounc­ing as­sault, but a con­dem­na­tion of Del­e­gate An­der­son. We need Del­e­gate An­der­son to re­ject the nom­i­na­tion and de-facto seat in the House of Del­e­gates. We need the mem­bers of the 43rd District Cen­tral Com­mit­tee to ap­point a pro­gres­sive leader to fill the del­e­gate seat.

One in six women and one in 33 men will be sex­u­ally as­saulted in their life­time. These num­bers will never go down if we al­low preda­tors to main­tain po­si­tions of power.

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