A female Michigan state senator is adding to the sexual harassment allegations against a Republican lawmaker, accusing her male colleague on Tuesday of saying in 2018 that she was elected because of her looks as he inappropriately touched her.
Senate Majority Whip Peter Lucido was already the focus of a sexual harassment investigation by the Senate Business Office after he made a remark to a female reporter that she said was inappropriate. Lucido apologized before later disputing the reporter’s account, but the Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Senate requested an investigation into the matter.
On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Mallory McMorrow submitted a complaint to the non-partisan office, describing alleged behavior during an orientation for new senators days after the two of them were elected in November 2018.
“I walked over and introduced myself to then-Senator-elect Pete Lucido. He reached out to shake my hand, and with the other hand, held very low on my back, with fingers grazing my hip and upper rear,” she wrote.
“He asked what my name was and where I was from. After a bit of back and forth, he asked, ‘Who’d you run against?’ I responded, ‘I beat (Republican incumbent Sen.) Marty Knollenberg.’ At that moment, still holding his hand on my low back, he looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows, and said, ‘I can see why.'”
McMorrow, who said she laughed off the encounter and walked away, wrote that the comments were “degrading and embarrassing,” and that “(the) implication, clearly, was ‘You won because of what you look like.'”
The senator said in a statement that she shared the incident with her husband the same day, but that she chose to not publicly share it at the time because she was worried that as the youngest member of the Senate, it could jeopardize her career.
McMorrow has declined to release the complaint publicly, citing a desire to not make others feel obligated to share their own allegations, but outlined her claims in a statement. The office of the Senate’s top Democrat, Jim Ananich, confirmed to CNN that the complaint was filed. CNN has reached out to the Senate Business Office for comment.
Lucido’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CNN on Tuesday.
McMorrow told CNN she felt compelled to come forward with her allegations after the reporter, Allison Donahue, shared her own last week — and that her decision to withhold them led to Donahue’s incident.
“I felt a pull of responsibility for letting it happen to her,” she said of Donahue in an interview on Tuesday, adding that she hoped her complaint would “lend credibility” to Donahue’s.
“I hope it will show that Senator Lucido’s behavior is not a one-off, misunderstood occurrence” with Donahue, the senator wrote in the complaint, “but a pattern of behavior intended to demean women at the workplace and abuse a position of power.”
McMorrow added in her interview, “If it affects my ability to pass bills but it makes it easier for the next woman who holds this seat, then I’ve done my job.” Asked if she thinks Lucido should resign, McMorrow said his fate should be left to the Senate Business Office and the chamber’s leadership.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, declined to comment Tuesday on McMorrow’s complaint and the Senate investigation. Ananich, the Democratic Senate minority leader, thanked McMorrow for having the “courage” to come forward in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.
“Sen. Lucido’s pattern of behavior is a real problem and it’s time for him to start taking personal responsibility for his actions,” he said.
The Senate Business Office opened an investigation last week into Lucido after Donahue, a reporter with the Michigan Advance, said last Wednesday that he remarked a day earlier that male high school students from his alma mater could “have a lot of fun” with her.
She detailed her allegations in a firsthand account that said the comments were made after she attempted to question Lucido for a story as he stood near a group of students from the all-male school.
If Lucido is found to be in violation of the chamber’s harassment policies, he could be subject to disciplinary action by the majority leader, including a hearing that could eventually result in him being “reprimanded, censured, or expelled” from the Senate, according to Senate rules.