While top Oregon political leaders called on state Sen. Jeff Kruse to resign immediately Thursday, a day after a female senator filed a formal complaint alleging years of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching, local Republicans chose to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Kruse, a Republican from Roseburg, was the subject of an official complaint filed by state Sen. Sara Gelser, who described alleged instances of unwanted touching and sexual harassment that began in 2011.

Gelser, a Corvallis Democrat, also alleged in the complaint that as many as 15 other women have disclosed unwanted touching or other behaviors from Kruse that violated harassment-free workplace rules.

Kruse said Thursday he does not intend to resign, and said he would decline further comment pending the completion of an investigation into Gelser’s allegations.

The official complaint puts in motion an independent investigation into the allegations, and a public hearing by the Senate Special Committee on Conduct.

If the investigation rules in favor of Gelser, Kruse faces the possibility of expulsion from the Senate.

State Rep. Knute Buehler, a Republican from Bend who is running for governor, issued a statement Thursday that called on Kruse to resign immediately. Buehler is a Roseburg native who graduated from Roseburg High School.

“What’s clear is that for too long casual attitudes and unprofessional behavior has been accepted in the Capitol. This unfortunate culture knows no party affiliation and exists whether you’re an elected official, staff or lobbyist. This is a moment for change,” Buehler said in a statement.

“I believe the multiple allegations against Sen. Kruse and I respect the courage of those who have come forward. The behavior of Sen. Kruse has no place in civil society or the workplace. This is especially true for someone who holds the people’s trust and should set a higher standard of behavior. Throughout this process, Sen. Kruse has lost the personal credibility and ability to effectively serve the people of Oregon. That’s why today I called Sen. Kruse and urged him to do the right thing and immediately resign,” Buehler said.

But local Republicans contacted by The News-Review Thursday refrained from calling for Kruse’s resignation until the investigation is complete.

Fred Dayton, chairman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee, said people he spoke with, even after Gelser’s complaint hit the news Wednesday, think the official complaint is politically motivated.

“The observation of people I talked to is that it’s a political maneuver,” Dayton said.

Kruse remains popular in Douglas County and still has local support.

“To the best of my knowledge, Jeff has the full support of the county,” Dayton said.

Dayton said the process that was set in motion with the official complaint needs to be “played out,” a view that was shared by state Rep. Dallas Heard, a Republican from Winston. Heard said he had no comment, but noted the process needs to be completed.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, said in a statement that due process needs to be followed.

“Sexual harassment has no place in Oregon. These are serious allegations being brought against Senator Kruse that deserve a full investigation. If due process finds them to be true, Senator Kruse should resign,” Richardson said in the statement.

Some state Democratic leaders were less circumspect. State Treasurer Tobias Read, and Democratic Party Chair Jeanne Atkins, issued statements calling for Kruse to resign.

“A resignation by Senator Kruse would demonstrate that he is willing to accept responsibility and put the state and its citizens first. Most importantly, it would send a signal to Oregonians that our government is open, accessible and respectful to everyone. It’s time for him to resign,” Read said.

John Dickey can be reached at jdickey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204.

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City Government and Business reporter

John Dickey is a city government and business reporter for The News-Review.

(1) comment

Mogie

""To the best of my knowledge, Jeff has the full support of the county," Dayton Jr. said." Perhaps Mr. Dayton should check out the poll regarding Kruses' resignation. Last time I looked the poll was overwhelmingly supporting Kruses' departure. That doesn't sound like the support of the community to me.

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