Allegations of a coordinated false sexual harassment campaign by East Portland Democratic representative highlight the dirty tricks and corruption within Oregon politics.
Originally published here, I’m migrating this piece to Substack.com
Diego Hernandez is a Oregon politician representing in East Portland (district 47) since 2017, when he was elected in 2016 at the age of 29 years old, he was the youngest member of the Oregon House. He’s a local kid, growing up in Troutdale and later serving on the school board as their first Hispanic member, and he’s steadily climbed the ranks and found other notable positions within government.
In 2017, during the height of the #MeToo movement, allegations of sexual harassment by senior legislative members caught the news and caused political fallout. Senator Jeff Kruse, a definite fucking creep, resigned in 2018. Within all of this political fury, some capitalized on the opportunity as an effort to expunge rivals. An example of an anonymous rumors circulated, is one about the elderly Rep. David Gomberg, when he told a benign joke about his health that included the word “erection” and he was accused of sexual harassment - he was exonerated after a lengthy and public investigation.
But this isn’t where the drama stops, never missing an opportunity to exploit a crisis, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian threw a nuclear bomb into Salem politics with an [explosive 52-page report stating that the real culprits of sexual harassment are the top dogs in the Oregon Democratic Party: Tina Kotek and Peter Courtney. As Willyweak spells out, this wasn’t a virtuous act by Avakian to make Salem a better environment for women or alleviate sexual harassment, but pure political stabbing:
Neither side appeared virtuous in the dispute. Legislative leaders in effect took the position that although they make the laws, they are above those laws. And although Avakian is, like legislative leaders, a Democrat, some people think he remains angry at the Democratic establishment for failing to sufficiently support him in his 2016 loss to Republican Dennis Richardson in the secretary of state's race.
Notable dirt in this nuclear bomb includes:
Peter Courtney having a shouting melt down at a restaurant and having to be dragged out by his wife.
Republicans responded to the sexual harassment complaints against definite creep Jeff Kruse by considering ways to sue one the accusers, Senator Sara Gelser, into silence.
Tina Kotek and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), and Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) did NOT want Kruse to resign because it would compromise the effectiveness of the legislative session.
Tina Kotek said the sexual harassment accuser of Jeff Kruse, Senator Sara Gelser, was “just not very likeable” and that’s why Kotek didn’t want to call for Kruse’s resignation.
BOLI uncovered that Jeff Kruse wasn’t kicked out because of sexual harassment. Leadership of the Oregon Democratic Party was completely fine with him sexually harassing women – he was kicked out because Jeff Kruse wouldn’t stop smoking tobacco in the building.
So, even a total creep like Jeff Kruse, his allegations and resignation are extremely muddled in a giant shitshow of corruption.
Rep. Hernandez was also caught up in these allegations – a rumor surfaced that he was “keeping a list ranking women lobbyists at the Oregon Capitol by attractiveness” was included in this report. Hernandez says “he was thrown under the bus by Brad Avakian” citing how “several who had firsthand knowledge of the allegations or were mentioned in the report, including Hernandez, said they were not interviewed by BOLI investigators." He thought these allegations were a political attack against him:
When the rumor surfaced, Hernandez was serving his first term in the Oregon House representing parts of East Portland. Hernandez suspected at the time that the rumor was invented by his political foes, including one legislator, to silence his impassioned floor speeches on immigrant rights and to undermine his effectiveness as a lawmaker. He said the Labor Bureau published "gossip and hearsay" that was picked up in press reports and played "right into the hands of those who sought to target and harass me."
"It is remarkable that BOLI, an agency charged with protecting the civil rights of Oregonians, would further a racially-motivated, defamatory smear about me," Hernandez wrote in an email to Oregon Capital Bureau. "It also defies logic that in the course of the investigation conducted that they never asked to speak with me about my experiences — which have included racism, bullying, threats and harassment by those who started and fueled the smear to silence me after my strong stances on civil and immigrant rights."
Rep Hernandez had to push for an investigation by Bureau of Labor and Industries which exonerated him. A summary of this report was provided by /u/throwawayshirt commentary last year.
That is a ton of fucking horse shit. Dude had every right to be cleared of a false rumor. And every right to sue the ass off of anyone proved to have defamed him by starting the false rumor. Boli's spin on this small point seems like a real stretch, and makes me question their partiality.
The subsequent report by BOLI includes "We did find ample evidence that individuals had engaged in spreading the rumor that such a list existed, but none of those engaged in rumormongering ever had personal knowledge or evidence of such a list." In essence, people within the Democratic party and Salem are spreading baseless rumors to discredit each other – it’s apparently a wide-reaching phenomenon.
Now, new allegations are boiling up about sexual harassment. On March 3rd, 2020 Andrea Valderrama, former Ted Wheeler and Steve Novick staffer and City Council candidate, accused Diego Hernandez of domestic violence for an incident in June 2019 and even this situation was very likely political, as Valderrama deliberately dismissed the restraining order 1 day before the trail, in just enough time to prevent Diego Hernandez from presenting his side of the story in a court-room setting. Hernandez for his part entirely denies the accusations – which are essentially that he got jealous at a night club, they got into a couples fight (oh, by the way, they were bumping uglies), and he threw his phone at her – again, he denies all of this and Valderrama denied him his day in court. Keep in mind she’s filing a restraining order for an incident that happened once, 9 months prior, when they were fucking.
Using this very likely false accusation from a political maneuver, Tina Kotek seized the opportunity and a new rumor started spreading new rumors and calling for Diego Hernandez to resign – all of this is of course perfectly timed up to his reelection campaign. The new rumors say that 7 women have make accusations, but only 2 have been named. Adding insult to injury, House Special Committee on Conduct has implemented “safety measures” against Hernandez, including that he provide 24-hour notice before entering the Capitol – in addition he can’t have contact with his 7 accusers, 5 of whom he doesn’t know. Other predominate voices in the Oregon Democratic Party have pilled on and are calling for Hernandez to resign before any of the facts have been known, before Hernandez has had an opportunity to tell his side of the story – simply put, Senator Sara Gelser, the same person who accused Jeff Kruse of sexual harassment and was told “she’s not likeable” by Tina Kotek, responded to the allegations against Hernandez with “I believe them. Rep. Hernandez should resign.”
It should be noted that this sexual harassment accusation was all verbal in nature.
Also, important note: accusations like this are meant to be kept confidential until there’s an investigation – obviously we don’t want allegations thrown around willy nilly for political gain – but somehow, these allegations were leaked to the press. By who? Who knows.
Hernandez fired back at this latest round of accusations with a tort claim filed just 2 weeks ago naming Tina Kotek and Barbara Smith Warner specifically.
“I have no idea what the concerns raised are or by whom. I do know that there has been an organized campaign against me recently to get me out of the office I was duly elected to and I was threatened this would happen if I didn’t resign.
“Due process matters, I ask that people withhold judgement until the investigation is complete. I believe women’s allegations need to be heard and then investigated by a credible process/sources and rule 27 is a new rule, but I’m hoping it’s a fair one, it’s already not being fair because the same person who threatened me that this would happen, now is calling for my resignation before the investigation has begun. By calling for my resignation the speaker is putting the integrity of the investigation at risk. Due process matters.”
His tort claim explains the most recent sexual harassment allegations are a result of failing to support a PERS bill. He goes on to explain Kotek and Warner pressured him to take a leave of absence from the Legislature (which he did), but then followed up that he has to also resign or there will be “more coming.” Hernandez says he’s now in the position of having to defend himself from 5 unnamed accusers, and without knowing the nature of the complaints against him, in the court of public opinion. And he’s labeled as a “safety risk” while none of the accusations involved physical violence.
Now there’s just an open field of busy bodies wannabe politicians openly attacking Hernandez and asking him to resign before there’s even been a preliminary investigation. Even though past investigations in this exact same manner have exonerated him and others.
(as an editorial note: I don't give a shit about Mr. Hernandez's policies, I'm not writing any of this to defend him - nor am I commenting on the legitimacy of the accusations - nor am I trying to explain any of this from a partisan perspective - I hate both parties, and all political parties, if you're curious)