One person lost a chance at a job today over sexual harassment allegations, and it wasn’t Morgan Freeman. A day after the Des Moines Register reported that three women had accused state senator Nate Boulton of sexual harassment, the Democrat announced he would drop out of his party’s primary for governor:
A popular Democratic candidate dropped out of Iowa’s crowded race for governor on Thursday, one day after an Iowa newspaper reported three women had accused him of sexual misconduct.
Nate Boulton, a Des Moines attorney and state senator, announced his exit from the campaign in an emailed statement that alluded to the accusations reported Wednesday in The Des Moines Register.
“These last 48 hours have been trying. I again offer an apology to those whom I have harmed in any way. It is my hope there is some positive that can come from this moment as we strive to be the better people we can be in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. I know that will be my task moving on from here.”
Boulton may be popular, but he was far off the pace in the Democratic primaries. The Register’s poll earlier this month put him eleven points behind retired businessman Fred Hubbell in second place, 31/20, while a poll from KBUR put Hubbell up 26 points at 46/20. It would have taken a miracle for Boulton to win the June 5th primary at this pace, and Boulton just got the opposite of it.
So what were the allegations? Only one was recent, from an incident in 2015; the other two allegations came from Boulton’s time in law school. They do share a similar modus operandi, though:
One woman told the Des Moines Register that Boulton, now 38, repeatedly grabbed her buttocks at a bar in 2015. Two others told the Register that when Boulton was in law school more than a decade ago, he rubbed his clothed crotch against them, pressing his erect penis into their thighs.
Boulton’s response to the allegations foreshadowed his withdrawal:
“I don’t have the same recollection,” he told the Register. “But I am not going to offer any additional context to this, other than to say if someone’s perspective is that it was inappropriate and I crossed a line and I misread a situation in a social setting, I do apologize.”
He declined to comment on or discuss the specific incidents, saying, “I think if I add context it quickly becomes victim-blaming, and I don’t want to go down that path.”
Er … isn’t that a tacit admission that there are victims? If Boulton didn’t do these things, then the obvious response is … “I didn’t do those things.” If you start off by attempting to “add context,” or even suggest that there is context to add to buttock-grabbing, then you’ve pretty much given up the case. With that statement, and with his distant status in the primary, all that was left was the spending-more-time-with-my-family announcement.
This probably doesn’t change much for the gubernatorial race. Hubbell was set to win the nomination anyway, and the few head-to-head polls against Republican governor Kim Reynolds showed the incumbent with similar and narrow polling leads over both. Reynolds isn’t facing a primary challenge, so she’s conserving her resources for the general election. With this scandal rocking Iowa Democrats — and likely to follow Boulton back to the state senate — Reynolds might get a momentary boost, but it might also burnish Hubbell’s status as an outsider, too. Still, now that sexual harassment has become a specific issue in the race, it will be difficult for Hubbell to argue against having a woman remain in the office … and don’t think Reynolds won’t find ways to remind Iowans of that, too.