Gov. Mark Dayton has joined Democratic candidates for governor, DFL Party leaders and a top Republican in calling for the resignation of DFL state Sen. Dan Schoen, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment during his time in office.
“The reported acts of harassment from Senator Schoen are totally unacceptable and unbefitting of the office in which he serves,” Dayton said in his statement. “This behavior cannot be tolerated in Minnesota’s workplaces or in our communities.”
The story, first reported by MinnPost late Wednesday evening, detailed behavior from Schoen that ranged from groping a woman to persistent and unwanted invitations to meet. One woman, who asked to not be identified, said he sent her a photo of male genitalia over Snapchat.
“These disturbing allegations make clear that no workplace, including Minnesota’s State Capitol, is immune to sexual harassment,” DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “The DFL stands strongly with the women who bravely shared their difficult stories, and all others who may have been harassed by Senator Dan Schoen. There is no room in our party for sexual harassment. The DFL calls for Senator Schoen’s immediate resignation.”
Republican Senate Majority Paul Gazelka said Schoen’s behavior clearly “brings the Senate into disrepute” and said he could be the subject of an ethics inquiry if he didn’t resign. The Senate has a subcommittee on ethics that can take up complaints filed by legislative members.
Schoen, a first-term senator from St. Paul Park who previously served in the House, said in a statement 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.”
As of late Wednesday, Schoen said he had no intention of resigning. He hired an attorney to represent him in any future ethics investigation. The City of Cottage Grove, where Schoen works as a police officer, said in a statement the senator was put on administrative duties pending an investigation at the state level. No one reported incidents with Schoen while working for the city, according to the statement.
DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and the entire leadership team of the Senate DFL caucus were the first to call Schoen to apologize and resign from his seat in the Legislature. “These victims’ allegations are sobering and disturbing. Sen. Schoen’s actions, even with additional context, were inappropriate and do not meet the standards for behavior of a state legislator,” Bakk said. “I have discussed these allegations with my leadership team and we are united in our call for Sen. Dan Schoen to apologize, step aside, and seek care to address these actions.”
Shortly after the story was published, Democratic candidates for governor began releasing their own statements, all calling on Schoen to resign. The statements included one from gubernatorial candidate and DFL Rep. Erin Murphy, who was told in 2015 about an incident where Schoen grabbed a DFL candidate’s buttocks at a Democratic Party event that year. The candidate, Lindsey Port, said she reported Schoen’s behavior to Murphy, who was deputy minority leader of the House at the time. Murphy reported it to the caucus’ executive director.
“I strongly condemn Senator Schoen’s deplorable conduct,” Murphy said in her statement. “This abuse of power is harmful to women, to people, and contributes to a sick culture that we must change. It has no place in our society, and is certainly not representative of how a public official should behave. I call on Senator Schoen to resign and take responsibility for his actions.”
Minneapolis DFL Rep. Paul Thissen, who is also running for governor, was also told about the Schoen incident with Port in 2015, and his statement detailed his response at the time. “House leadership staff received a report about improper behavior by then-Rep. Schoen,” Thissen said. “I immediately consulted with House staff on proper protocol and set up a meeting with Schoen. I explained the allegations that had been reported to House leadership staff. I made it clear that such conduct was unacceptable for a member of the House and a member of the DFL Caucus. I emphasized that such behavior must stop. No further incidents were communicated or reported to me or to House leadership staff. I also considered it important to respect the privacy of the individual who reported the behavior.”
Thissen added that he was “shocked” to hear of more incidents and called on Schoen to resign. He also said there should be “institutional changes” made to both protect the privacy and respect the wishes of victims while also ensuring “greater accountability for members of the Legislature” than is currently in policy.
Even before the story broke, House Speaker Kurt Daudt planned to make all members undergo mandatory sexual harassment and other discrimination training early in the next legislative session, according to MPR News. Senate leadership was also considering stepping up training before the Schoen story broke.
The allegations come at a time when people across the nation are stepping out to talk about sexual harassment and assault they’ve experienced at the hands of people in powerful positions in institutions. What started as more than two dozen allegations against Harvey Weinstein has led to the resignation or firing of other powerful figures Hollywood, the media and statehouses across the nation.
DFL Rep. Erin Maye Quade was also running for office for the first time in 2015 when Schoen began contacting her persistently one day to meet him for drinks, later suggesting she should come over to his home because his children weren’t there. Then she got a text that she believes was meant for someone else. “’I almost got her. Working on her pretty hard, but I almost got her,’” the text read, according to Maye Quade. “My blood went cold.”
“Sexual harassment in the workplace, and at the Capitol, is bigger than one Senator,” Maye Quade said Thursday. “Women are far too familiar with harassment and it must stop. I am not alone. I am not alone in experiencing harassment at the workplace, and I am not alone in experiencing harassment at the Capitol. As a candidate, I experienced it with Sen. Schoen, as a legislator, I’ve experienced it by multiple members of the majority and reported it.”