Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, reversed course and submitted his resignation from the state Senate on Thursday.
The resignation followed the publication of an independent investigator’s report saying Kruse had inappropriately touched and hugged multiple women at the Capitol, including female legislators, legislative staff and law students, and even “cupped” his hand over a lobbyist’s buttocks.
It was a dramatic about-face from the statement he made one day earlier when he said he wouldn’t resign and that he was preparing a rebuttal to the investigative report. A Senate Conduct Committee hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 22.
The investigation was spurred by complaints from state Sens. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, who alleged a pattern of unwanted touching and hugging.
Kruse had publicly maintained his innocence since the allegations first came to light in October 2017. But on Tuesday, the Legislature published a 51-page report by investigator Dian Rubanoff. Rubanoff found Kruse had harassed multiple women at the Capitol, despite being warned not to touch women beyond giving them a handshake by legislative counsel a year ago.
Kruse had all of his committee assignments stripped and his door removed due to the harassment allegations and his admission that he illegally smoked in his office.
Kruse issued a statement Thursday that was posted online by the Senate Republicans. In it, he remained defiant and denied the allegations he harassed female colleagues.
“I continue to deny these allegations and I regret that I will not have the opportunity to defend myself before the Senate Conduct Committee,” he said.
“However, today I tender my resignation so my colleagues may focus on serving Oregonians without distraction and my constituents may receive the fullest representation they are due,” he wrote.
He said serving the residents of his district for 22 years has “been the greatest honor of my life.”
He particularly noted his pride in his accomplishments in health care and education.
And he said he’d be happy to return home to “the wonderful community that has supported me for over two decades.”
Kruse told The News-Review this morning that he wants to speak more about what happened after the legislative session ends in March, but “out of respect for the process” he’s sticking to his written statement. He will remain a senator until the end of the session, but said it’s unlikely he’ll be taking any votes on bills that come to the Senate floor. He said he will be available for consultation with other legislators.
Kruse is a Melrose farmer who has lived in Douglas County his entire life. He was one of the Legislature’s longest serving members. His legislative career began 22 years ago in the Oregon House of Representatives. He served in the House from 1996 until 2004, when he was elected to the Senate. He handily won reelection in 2016.
Kruse is a staunch conservative who opposed bureaucracy and increases to corporate taxes, didn’t believe in global warming, opposed carbon taxes and thought mandated school programs like Common Core should be dumped. He supported medical marijuana but pushed for tight regulations on the recreational market.
He sponsored legislation to expand health care for children, and he gained national attention for his efforts to ensure schools like Roseburg High School could retain Native American mascots.