Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat, has announced that she is stepping down when her term in Congress ends this year rather than run for reelection.
In revelations that emerged last week, Esty came under fire for apparently keeping her chief of staff on the payroll for three months after she learned that the man allegedly sexually harassed and threatened another colleague. According to the New York Times, U.S. Rep. Esty is a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement.
First elected in 2012 to represent Connecticut’s fifth congressional district in the central and northwestern part of the state, Esty was considered a lock for reelection under ordinary circumstances and probably could have held the seat as long as she wanted. Given that it is a swing district, the open seat could constitute a GOP pickup opportunity, however, if the party can find an effective and properly funded candidate.
Esty initially insisted that she would seek reelection despite the scandal, but apparently she was pressured by the Democrat hierarchy to change her mind, thus resulting in Monday’s abrupt announcement. Esty is the first female incumbent in the U.S. House who is not running again over sexual harassment-related allegations.
The Washington Post provided background about the harassment allegations in her Capitol Hill office.
“Esty…came under fire on Thursday after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported allegations that the chief of staff, Tony Baker, had repeatedly harassed and on one occasion punched a subordinate, Anna Kain, while the two worked in Esty’s office…Kain sought and received a one-year restraining order against Baker after he threatened to ‘f***ing kill’ her in a May 2016 voice-mail message obtained by The Post. He remained in his position until mid-August of that year after he and Esty negotiated a formal separation agreement that included a nondisclosure agreement and a promise that she would recommend him for jobs outside Washington. He soon obtained a job at Sandy Hook Promise, a group created after the 2012 mass shooting in Esty’s district.”
According to the Hartford Courant, Esty reportedly turned the matter over to lawyers to conduct an internal investigation rather than fire or suspend the man immediately. Investigators took two months before interviewing the victim, and as noted above, three months passed before he was dismissed.
Sandy Hook Promise is a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect children from gun violence that was formed after the horrific mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Sandy Hook Promise has reportedly now parted ways with Baker.
In an approximately 300-word statement on Facebook, Elizabeth Esty seemed to admit that she mishandled the situation.
“[I] have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek re-election. Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace. In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better. To the survivor, I want to express my strongest apology for letting you down…”
According to CNN in the video below, the ex-chief of staff for Elizabeth Esty doesn’t deny the harassment allegations, but denies the claim of physical violence.
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations in her office is now subject to a review by the U.S. House Ethics Committee.