The pressure for state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) to resign is increasing. Over the past week, Gov. Kate Brown, state lawmakers and many political organizations have called for Hernandez’s resignation from the Oregon Legislature over sexual harassment allegations in his office.
On Jan. 22, the law firm Jackson Lewis, P.C. published an investigative report on Hernandez’s alleged actions. The investigators interviewed five subjects and others who do business at the Capitol who had experienced Hernandez’s behavior.
The report ended by saying Hernandez “consistently blurred the lines between their personal and professional relationships and that conduct had a negative impact on their ability to do business at the Capitol.”
On Feb. 1, 140 organizations sent out a statement, calling for “bold and swift” action against Hernandez. Among the list of organizations that signed on was Emerge Oregon, a group that educates and equips women with the tools to run for public office.
“We cannot turn our eyes from the picture that has only continued to be illuminated — one in which an elected leader has used his asymmetrical power to repeatedly harass, intimidate and employ other abusive behaviors toward members of our community,” the organizations wrote.
At Brown’s Feb. 5 press conference dedicated to COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, she told reporters that the women who came forward and shared their stories were courageous and brave. “Let me be very clear if this were any other workplace Rep. Hernandez would have already been shown the door,” she said. “He should resign immediately.”
Later that Friday, 26 lawmakers signed a letter demanding Hernandez step down from the Legislature.
“As legislators, we respect the process that was put in place to make the capitol a safer place and we appreciate the role that the independent investigation and the conduct committee have played,” they wrote. “But we feel we must express our collective concerns and shared responsibility to uphold the integrity of leadership in Oregon. It is incumbent upon each of us to hold ourselves and one another accountable for making our capitol a safe working environment for everyone.”
The letter added: “Our collective belief is that Rep. Hernandez has abused his role as a state legislator and, in doing so, created an unsafe and hostile work environment with his behavior. He has hurt both the women he has harassed and the thousands of Oregonians across the state who have experienced workplace sexual harassment.”
One of the representatives who signed on the Feb. 5 letter was Marty Wilde. He tells Eugene Weekly that when a politician betrays the public trust, they shouldn’t hold office anymore. “I’m grateful the victims came forward, and the best way to honor their bravery is by removing Rep. Hernandez,” he says. “It’s the only appropriate thing to do.”
He adds that it’s also a way to make the Capitol a safe and professional place to work, and that there is bipartisan support for Hernandez’s removal.