District 38 State Representative Zach Fansler says that even if resignations end up eroding the slim House Majority Coalition, sexual misconduct by members of the state Legislature must not be tolerated and legislative staffers must feel safe.
Representative Zach Fansler was in the middle of a tour of erosion-threatened communities last weekend when he got word that Kotzebue Representative Dean Westlake had resigned after news media disclosures of a number of incidents of sexual misconduct in his past.
A number of legislative staffers have evidently not felt safe bringing out concerns about sexual harassment by lawmakers. Fansler said at this point, legislators in both parties realize that something must be done.
“There is a group of legislators that has been put together from both the House and Senate. It's both parties that are working on this,” Fanlser said. “I think everybody recognizes what a massive problem this is and why we can't have it.”
Speaking in Chefornak last Friday, Fansler said that the House Majority had called on Westlake to resign, and that he was relieved to see Westlake's resignation letter.
“Hopefully it's sending the message that this won't be tolerated,” said Fansler.
The Governor will now have the opportunity to select a replacement for Westlake, who won by a very slim majority in his district. Westlake and Fansler's wins in rural districts were critical for forming the House Majority, which combined Democrats with a few moderate Republicans, but Fansler has said that even if it ends up tipping the balance of power in state and national politics, the issue of sexual harassment must be dealt with. Interviewed at last week's Bethel City Council meeting prior to Westlake's resignation, Fansler said that if allegations are shown to be true action must be taken, so long as there is due process.
“When folks are given that due process and it is found that there is evidence that this is happening, then yeah, absolutely we need to disrupt the power, or else this cycle will continue and that's exactly what we don't want,” said Fansler.