Forum Editorial: Luke Simons should be expelled from the North Dakota House
Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, has a clear pattern of making abusive and demeaning comments around women in the Capitol. His conduct is unacceptable. House members should expel him to show such conduct won't be tolerated.
Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, should do the honorable thing and resign his legislative seat following a barrage of credible allegations of his abusive behavior toward female legislative staffers.
A vote on a resolution to expel Simons is scheduled for Thursday, so he’ll have to act quickly. Failing a resignation, legislators should act swiftly to remove Simons from the office he has disgraced.
His abusive conduct burst into public view recently when he exploded in anger when Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, asked him to wear a mask in the Capitol cafeteria. His defiant response was angry, profane and vulgar.
His conduct was shameful and unprofessional — and merely the latest in a series of incidents in a pattern going back several years.
Learning of that cafeteria outburst, Forum Communications columnist Rob Port submitted a public records request with the Legislative Council, yielding documents describing earlier incidents in which Simons’ behavior made female legislative staffers uncomfortable.
A memo written in 2018 describing an incident during the 2017 session said Simons discussed shopping for thongs at Victoria’s Secret for his wife with a female Legislative Council staff member.
He also made a remark about a thoroughbred horse having a “hungry look in her eye like some women.” Both comments “disturbed” the female staff member, who asked to no longer work with Simons.
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Port: Bastiat lawmaker has shown a pattern of abusive behavior to colleagues The incident that was the last straw for many who work in the Capitol building happened earlier this week when Simons was asked by Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, a Fargo Democrat, to put on his mask. Simons answered with "f--- off" and "you're not my f------ mother," an outburst that shocked observers.
This January, according to records, Simons told a female legislative intern that he’d like to run his hands through her hair, a remark that Rep. Brandy Pyle, R-Casselton, found “a bit shocking.”
Simons, who seems not to have let an opportunity to make a shockingly inappropriate comment pass by, compared Pyle, as shown in an old photograph in which she wore bangs, to a “schoolgirl.”
According to a memo filed by the intern, Simons told Pyle she wouldn’t want to wear her hair any longer or would “look Chinese or Indian.”
When confronted, Simons acknowledged that the Legislative Council had imposed limitations on staff members he could work with, but dismissed the allegations as coming from “liberals'' on the Council’s staff and said legislators should “clean house.”
Records indicate that legislative leaders were made aware of Simons’ misconduct. Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, the House majority leader, said he told Simons his behavior was inappropriate and said staff members could have filed a complaint, but no formal complaints were received.
With Simons’ threatening comments about “cleaning house,” it’s little wonder no complaints were filed given the potential for retaliation. Legislators rank above staff members and interns, a power differential that is significant in these incidents and can’t be dismissed.
As the comments about Pyle indicate, Simons’ offensive behavior wasn’t limited to staffers and interns. His repeated comments about her clothes and personal life were so bad that Rep. Emily O’Brien, R-Grand Forks, moved to another desk in the House chambers to avoid Simons.
Enough. There undoubtedly are more incidents that haven’t come to public light. But the pattern of offensive behavior clearly shows that Simons feels entitled to belittle and demean women around him.
House members should vote to expel him. And leaders should learn that conduct of this kind must be dealt with sternly, so it stops. A clear message must be sent that this sort of conduct won’t be tolerated in the Capitol.