Alaska Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, is asking House District 38 Rep. Zach Fansler to resign following accusations of assault.
The Juneau Empire reports that the Alaska Department of Law and local police are investigating allegations of Fansler hitting a woman twice in the face with an open palm and rupturing her eardrum after she tried to escape his sexual advances in a hotel room. The victim says that the attack followed a night out drinking in Juneau bars on January 13. Fansler’s lawyer, Wallace Tetlow of Anchorage, told the paper that Fansler denies the allegation.
Edgmon released his statement calling for Fansler’s resignation six minutes after the Empire published its article on Saturday afternoon. In it, Edgmon says that he became aware of the information the day prior.
“Zach Fansler is someone I and many others respected and trusted,” Edgmon wrote, “and who worked hard for his district. His behavior is a betrayal of trust which has created feelings of shock and deep sadness among everyone I have spoken to.”
The Senate Democrats quickly added their support to Edgmon’s request. “The Senate Democrats commend the swift action of the House Majority Coalition today in demanding the resignation of Representative Fansler,” Sen. Berta Gardner of Anchorage wrote in a press release issued about an hour after Edgmon’s statement. “Whenever an act like this occurs, the accused needs to be held accountable.”
The Empire identifies the woman accusing Fansler as a state employee who does not work at the Capitol. She asked that her name be withheld, and the paper does not usually identify victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“I am overcome with sympathy and respect for the victim,” Edgmon wrote in his statement. “It takes immense bravery to bring these matters forward. I honor and am deeply grateful for her strength and courage, and want to make clear our caucus will not tolerate this behavior.”
Sen. Gardner’s statement held a similar response. “Physical violence against anyone needs to be taken seriously,” Gardner wrote. “It is unacceptable in any form. We stand in support of the victim in coming forward and appreciate the brave steps taken to do so."
According to the Empire, the victim went to the Juneau Urgent Care the day following the attack. A medical form states that she was admitted for “ear trauma with possible TM rupture.”
In a series of text messages between the woman and Fansler, the Empire writes that Fansler apologized, texting, “I’m embarrassed and ashamed of myself.”
This is the second time that Rep. Bryce Edgmon has called for a representative from his own caucus to resign. In early December he called for Rep. Dean Westlake, a Democrat from Kotzebue, to resign following allegations of sexual harassment by seven women that were later substantiated by a legislative report.
Fansler said that he was relieved to see Westlake’s resignation letter. “Hopefully it’s sending the message that this won’t be tolerated,” he told KYUK in late December.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to Bryce Edgmon as the House Majority Leader. He is the Speaker of the House. We regret the error.