The Democratic Party is reeling under the weight of sexual misconduct allegations.
New Mexico Democrats are hurting after one of their top politicians found himself forced to step aside in an upcoming statewide race due to opposition from women within the party, AP reports.
Sen. Michael Padilla (D-Bernalillo), who serves as New Mexico’s Senate Majority Whip, withdrew his bid for Lieutenant Governor because of sexual allegations from 2006 that have come back to haunt him.
Padilla, widely seen as a rising star within the Democratic party, was favored to win the race before word of his misdeeds resurfaced.
According to two federal lawsuits against Padilla, the lawmaker harassed women while managing Albuquerque’s emergency call center in 2006.
Padilla’s accusers claimed he made inappropriate comments and repeatedly asked women on dates–even when they rejected him. Eventually, the city settled the “sexually hostile work environment” claims.
The allegations came up during Padilla’s State Senate campaigns in 2012 and 2016, but they weren’t enough to keep him from winning.
But the accusations have proved more problematic during Padilla’s bid for Lieutenant Governor, likely due to the recent torrent of sexual allegations against mostly powerful men in entertainment, politics, and business.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham–who is running for New Mexico Governor–urged Padilla to bow out. And a group of female Democrats prepared to hold a news conference opposing his candidacy when the Majority Whip announced his withdrawal.
“I do not want to be a distraction as we come together as New Mexicans to solve this unacceptable work place issue” Padilla said in a statement Monday.
Heather Brewer, an Albuquerque-based political consultant, applauded Padilla’s decision.
“We cannot tolerate leaders who have a history of irresponsible behavior around sexual harassment,” she said.
As to whether Padilla still has a future in the State Senate, Brewer said that “ultimately the Senate and the voters are going to have to make that decision.”