Sen. Dan Schoen pressured to resign amid sexual harassment allegations

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State Sen. Dan Schoen is being pressured to resign from the Minnesota Legislature following a published report alleging he sexually harassed multiple women in politics.

The women, including a fellow DFL lawmaker, shared detailed allegations against Schoen in a MinnPost story published Wednesday night. One former DFL candidate claimed Schoen made sexual comments about her and later grabbed her buttocks. A legislator said Schoen pursued meetings with her, including at his home. Another lawmaker said she’d been warned by lobbyists about Schoen.

The MinnPost report said Schoen, who works as a Cottage Grove police officer, had been presented with the allegations. He said he was aware of each incident, but the report said Schoen later said the allegations are “either completely false or have been taken far out of context. It was never my intention to leave the impression I was making an inappropriate advance on anyone. I feel terrible that someone may have a different interpretation of an encounter, but that is the absolute truth. I also unequivocally deny that I ever made inappropriate contact with anyone.”

The report said Schoen continued: “Despite this, if any of my actions or words have ever made another person feel uncomfortable or harassed, I deeply regret it and truly apologize. This is not who I am nor is it the person I would want anyone to feel I am.”

Schoen told MinnPost Wednesday he had no plans to resign, according to the report.

He could not be reached for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk called for Schoen to resign, as did House Minority Leader Erin Murphy and congressional candidate Angie Craig, all Democrats. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz also called for his resignation. Murphy and Walz are running for governor.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Thursday called on Schoen to resign.

The reported acts of harassment from Senator Schoen are totally unacceptable and unbefitting of the office in which he serves,” Dayton said in a statement. “I join Senator Bakk and members of the Senate DFL caucus, who have called for Senator Schoen’s immediate resignation. This behavior cannot be tolerated in Minnesota’s workplaces or in our communities.”

Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, called late Wednesday for Schoen to resign and for Ken Martin, the state DFL Party chairman, to condemn it. Martin then called for Schoen to resign.

“There is no room in our party for sexual harassment,” Martin said in a statement.

State Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, also urged Schoen to step down.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable,” Kent wrote in a statement. “It has been excused in too many workplaces for far too long. I admire the courage of these women who have come forward to tell their stories. Their voices help create a culture that is safe and respectful, and where harassment is no longer tolerated. Senator Schoen must take full responsibility for his actions, resign from the Legislature, and make the changes he needs to make within himself.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, threatened an ethics investigation of Schoen if he does not resign.

Rep. Tony Jurgens, R-Cottage Grove, said Schoen should resign.

“I question with this hanging over his head, how effective he would be to represent the people of our district,” Jurgens said Thursday. “I’m a husband and a father of two young women. Any types of allegations along these lines need to be taken seriously.”

Jurgens wouldn’t say if he would consider running for Schoen’s Senate seat if Schoen resigned.

“It’s too soon to ask that question,” he said.

Rep. Keith Franke, R-St. Paul Park, said he was “blindsided” by the allegations.

“Right now I’m just sad,” he said. “I honestly didn’t find out until late last night. I’m blown away and sad.”

Schoen, of St. Paul Park, won election to the Senate in 2016 after serving four years in the House. He is divorced with two children.

Among allegations outlined in the story is a claim by former House candidate Lindsey Port that Schoen made a sexual comment about her buttocks in her presence during a Democratic National Committee gathering in Minneapolis in August 2015. The comment was made in front of others, Port said, and she said Schoen later touched her buttocks and made another sexual comment.

Port later reported the incident to Murphy, who at the time was deputy House minority leader. Murphy told MinnPost she forwarded the allegation to a top House staffer and it was treated as a personnel matter.

Port turned to Twitter late Wednesday to elaborate on her decision to go public.

“I’m standing with other women who are bravely sharing their stories, because this is not who we are,” Port wrote. “This cannot be the future. And I refuse to be silent.”

State Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, also claimed Schoen had harassed her. Maye Quade told MinnPost that Schoen had contacted her in December 2015 while she was at protests in Minneapolis over the police shooting of Jamar Clark, who was black. A legislative candidate at the time, Maye Quade said Schoen cautioned her about posting about Black Lives Matter and said he could provide her with a police officer’s perspective. She claimed he repeatedly asked to meet her for drinks and later invited her to his home, noting his children were not there.

Maye Quade also said she received a text message from Schoen that clearly was not intended for her because it said: “I almost got her. Working on her pretty hard, but I almost got her.”

Maye Quade said said she took a screenshot of the message and sent it to Murphy, but did not pursue it further at the time. Still, she told MinnPost, she avoided Schoen “like the plague.”

The MinnPost story quoted another DFL lawmaker, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, as saying she had been warned by two lobbyists about Schoen after she was elected in 2016.

“This wasn’t just a one-time thing,” Becker-Finn told MinnPost. “This is clearly a pattern that people are aware of.”

RiverTown Multimedia reporter William Loeffler contributed to this story.