‘Enough': Women say harassment culture at state capitol must change

Representatives Jamie Becker-Finn and Erin Maye Quade were elected to the House last fall.Lindsey Port is running for a seat in the next election. All three sat down with KARE 11's Jana Shortal to talk about the sexual harassment culture they say is know

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Three women are calling for systemic change at Minnesota's state capitol.

Two of them say they have been victims of sitting lawmakers Senator Danny Schoen and Representative Tony Cornish. 

On Monday, for the first time, they discussed the issue in depth as a group, in a sit-down with Jana Shortal.

Representatives Jamie Becker-Finn and Erin Maye Quade were elected to the House last fall.
Lindsey Port is running for a seat in the next election.

All three of them, as women in Minnesota politics, say they know a main rule of this house.

"Shortly after I was elected I was warned by more than one person, separately, to stay away from certain people," Jamie Becker-Finn said. "It was kind of an eye-opener, just the reality of what working at the capitol is. ... It also sent the message that, like, well everybody knows about this and everybody kind of accepts it."

"That's what those rules are, right?" Erin Maye Quade said. "It's about managing the feelings of the harassers. Instead of confronting them and having them have consequences, we just conform our lives around their behavior. And that is just exhausting and quite frankly, again, we don't have time to keep doing that."

In the last week, Maye Quade and Port have made their harassment claims public - a bold step away from women adhering to those unspoken rules. But it's a step they said they had to take to change that rule.

"When we ran, we said we were going to the capitol to do real work that would make material changes in people's lives, and that doesn't just mean policy," Maye Quade said. "It means making it a different place so that the next generation of women who come to the capitol - whether they're staffers, lobbyists, leaders ... they have a different workplace."

"The generation that came before us broke into male-dominated fields. Journalism, politics, sports, medicine," Port said. "They had to do that work just to be allowed in the room. And now we're allowed in the room, and they did that work for us. ... Now we need to change the culture."

They aren't just talking. They are acting.

"If we don't stand up and say enough, who will?" Port said.

All three have called on the governor to immediately create a task force on sexual harassment specific to the capitol environment. They want people outside of partisan pandering to create a system that holds sexual harassers to the fire.

"Once you hold, you start holding people accountable, the folks who maybe haven't come forward yet, it sends a message that the behavior is - you can't do this anymore," said Becker-Finn.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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