A retired Roseburg High School drama teacher has started a MoveOn.org petition asking Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Senate to remove Sen. Jeff Kruse from office.
Kruse was recently removed from all Senate committees by Senate President Peter Courtney over allegations he has been smoking in his office, in violation of state law, and that he has “inappropriately touched” female lawmakers, including Corvallis Democratic Sen. Sara Gelser. So far, no specifics have been forthcoming beyond that another senator said she had seen him hugging and standing too close to Gelser. Kruse also had his door removed from his office in an effort to prevent his smoking.
Eighty-three people had signed Brad Allen’s online petition as of Saturday evening. Most are Douglas County residents, though a few reside in Gelser’s district or in the Portland area.
Allen said Kruse would be fired if he was an employee in any other business.
“Why do we have lower standards for our senator than we would for somebody working at Bi-Mart, you know, somebody working at a gas station?” he said.
Allen said he wants the county to be a vibrant place where its kids want to stay after they’ve grown up. He said he might be able to give Kruse the benefit of the doubt if he were getting that job done, but he doesn’t think that’s happening. He thinks businesses would not want to locate here after learning about our senator being removed from committees, having his door removed and “hitting on” women.
He also said he doesn’t believe any woman would accuse anyone of sexual harassment unless it were true, because she knows that many people won’t believe her.
“I’ve decided I’m going to believe all accusers from here on out,” he said.
Kruse said the petition doesn’t make sense, since only the voters, not the governor or the Senate president could remove him from office.
Allen said he doesn’t think a recall petition would work, because not enough county residents would vote to oust Kruse. But he hopes the MoveOn.org petition will encourage Kruse to retire from the Senate.
“Let’s send Uncle Jeffey back to a place where he can squeeze any fruit he wants, and smoke whenever he feels like it,” he said.
Kruse said it’s part of a witch hunt intended to force him to resign, but he won’t.
“From my perspective, resigning is admitting guilt, and I’m not going to do that,” he said.
Kruse has said he’s never done anything more than give a side hug to Gelser, and that he’s never touched her in a sexual way. And he said he still doesn’t know what the specific allegations are.
“It’s just inappropriate touching, whatever the hell that is, and that varies person to person. One of the biggest huggers in the entire state capitol is the governor. She’s a hugger, always has been,” he said.
Kruse feels his constituents are behind him.
“Basically, what I’m hearing from the community is support for me. Yesterday, I went shopping at Sherm’s and had three people stop me and tell me they’re 100 percent behind me,” he said.