An influential political group that works to get female Democrats elected in Texas has called on state Sens. Borris Miles of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, both Democrats, to resign following reports of sexual misconduct.
Annie’s List issued a statement Thursday after The Daily Beast reported multiple allegations of assault and harassment by the two senators. Neither Miles nor Uresti immediately responded to requests for comment from the Tribune Thursday but both have previously denied such allegations.
“As we know all too well, men like Borris Miles and Carlos Uresti have been asserting themselves upon others without their permission for millenniums,” said Patsy Woods Martin, executive director of the Austin-based organization. “What is new is that now we're calling it out, taking these instances out of the shadows of shame and doubt that perpetrators, and their enablers, have foisted upon women.”
The Daily Beast cited stories from unnamed women working at the Capitol who said they were forcibly kissed and otherwise harassed by the men. Miles didn’t respond to Wednesday’s story, but a spokeswoman said in a previous article by the publication that a published account of assault didn’t happen. Uresti told the news site the allegations against him were “unfounded” and “erroneous.”
Texas leaders called for a review of sexual harassment policies at the state Legislature following a Texas Tribune story detailing how current procedures offered little protection for victims and describing a wide range of harassment at the Capitol. The Texas House approved changes to its policy last week. The Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst to lead a review of the chamber’s policy, has yet to hold any public hearings on the matter.
"These are serious allegations that have been denied by the senators," Patrick said in a statement responding to the calls for resignation Thursday, adding that he had asked Kolkhorst to "determine if there are additional steps we should take."
"I know she has been meeting with senators and staffers over the past several weeks and I expect that she will post a hearing notice soon to be sure that we are doing all we can to make sure every staff member and every elected official is protected from sexual harassment and all other inappropriate behavior," Patrick said.
Earlier today, state Sen. José Rodríguez, chairman of the chamber's Democratic caucus, said the behavior alleged in the Daily Beast article is "unacceptable" in any situation, but especially so for an elected official.
"Any person in a position of power who engages in such deplorable conduct should be fired or removed," he said in a statement before Annie's List announced their call for resignation.
State Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said in a statement that she finds the recent stories in the media "very alarming."
"It’s a sad state of affairs when people feel their only option is talking to the press," she said.
Rodríguez and Garcia both called for independent investigations of sexual misconduct at the Capitol. The Texas Tribune previously reported that those in charge of investigating and resolving sexual harassment complaints have little to no authority over lawmakers. Garcia said she is also calling for a hotline to report abuse.
"As this discussion continues at both the national and state levels, I applaud those who have come forward and encourage more women to continue shedding light on the culture of many of our industries and institutions, including the legislature, so we can create a culture shift where these incidents can be fully investigated, and hopefully, prevented," Rodríguez said.