AP NEWS

Many Democrats mum after colleague quits over accusations

March 18, 2019
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2014, file photo, Nevada Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, asks questions in a special session of the Nevada Legislature, in Carson City, Nev. When former Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle unexpectedly resigned his seat last week over sexual harassment allegations, he was quickly condemned by the governor and Democratic leadership. But fellow Assembly Democrats have remained on the sidelines and overwhelmingly refused any comment. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison, File)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — When former Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle unexpectedly resigned his seat last week over sexual harassment allegations, he was quickly condemned by the governor and Democratic leadership.

But fellow Assembly Democrats have remained on the sidelines and largely refused any comment.

Despite the scrutiny and awareness that the #MeToo movement has brought to the issue of sexual misconduct, almost no rank-and-file Assembly Democrats approached by The Associated Press have been willing to criticize Sprinkle or agree to comment on his departure.

When asked for comment by The Associated Press, 17 Democrats in the Assembly either declined to comment or referred comment to a caucus spokesman.

Gov. Steve Sisolak wasted no time in decrying Sprinkle’s behavior, saying in a statement that he is “disgusted” and “outraged” by the sexual harassment allegations made against the former Democratic whip.

“Let me send a clear message to any and all individuals who think it’s OK to harass others in the workplace: such behavior will not be tolerated, and my administration will see to it that such bad actors face the consequences of their behavior,” the Democrat said.

Republicans were also quick to criticize Sprinkle’s actions. Minority Floor Leader Jim Wheeler also weighed in on the silence from rank-and-file Democrats.

“I wouldn’t comment either if I were them,” Wheeler said. “They’re in big trouble.”

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, described Sprinkle’s resignation as embarrassing, but said there’s little slack for Democratic politicians when it comes to sexual harassment.

He said the response from Assembly Democrats is not unusual, particularly since Sprinkle has resigned and the caucus is looking to move forward.

Their silence comes even as a cohort of Assembly Democrats have signed onto the “No Means No, Ruben” campaign. The effort seeks to prevent former U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who was on the rise politically before he was accused of sexual harassment, from winning a spot on the Las Vegas city council.

It still remains unknown what specific accusations prompted Sprinkle to resign. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, a Democrat, announced he is not aware of any formal complaint against Sprinkle. Frierson, in a statement, said he is committed to maintaining a workplace that is free from harassment.

At the end of the 2017 session, the Legislature changed its joint standing rules on sexual harassment. The rules now require the Legislative Counsel Bureau to establish a system that allows a person to report a sexual harassment complaint anonymously.

The quiet response from the rank and file also mirrors Senate Democrats’ reaction to the resignation of former Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson. He has pleaded guilty in federal court to using at least $250,000 in campaign contribution to lease a luxury SUV, open a Las Vegas nightclub and pay for other expenses.

At least nine Democratic Senators declined to comment to The Associated Press on Atkinson stepping down.