Dems could lose a safe seat in Congress over #MeToo scandal

Connecticut Democrats have a big #MeToo problem on their hands and are split over what to do about it.  A few want to force the resignation of a sitting member of the House of Representatives to avoid a loss in November.  But most of the prominent Dem officeholders want to stick with a loyal Democrat who only tolerated but did not commit domestic violence.

Neil Vigdor of the Hartford Courant reports:

Breaking with all other party leaders, Democratic state Sen. Mae Flexer of Danielson is calling for U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty to resign over her handling of repeated acts of domestic violence by a since-fired chief of staff against a former aide.

Flexer – an architect of the "Time's Up Act,'' introduced by Democrats in the state Senate as an overhaul of Connecticut's sexual harassment laws – is the first office holder in Esty's own party to call for the congresswoman's resignation.

"The congresswoman failed her staff on every level when she decided to protect an alleged abuser instead of them," Flexer said.  "It's completely unacceptable.  Her failure to do the right thing here hurt us all, especially as more and more women are courageously coming forward.  It's time for Rep. Esty to step aside."

In the fevered atmosphere of the #MeToo movement, Rep. Esty behaved in a way that could offend enough voters to swing Connecticut's Fifth Congressional District to a Republican challenger.  State Senator Flexer speaks to the constituency aroused by revelations of widespread abuse of females in politics and the media.  They do not tolerate those who tolerate abuse.

It took three months until Esty dismissed her top adviser, Tony Baker, who not only received a $5,000 severance payment, but got a favorable recommendation from his one-time boss that led to his hiring by Sandy Hook Promise.

Personal loyalties seem at work here – by Esty for her valued former employee and by other Connecticut pols to her.

Democrats, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro, have rallied around Esty.  Prominent Democratic women in the General Assembly have remained silent since the Washington Post reported that Esty kept Butler on the job for three months after learning about his behavior in 2016.

Republicans have been calling for her to resign, but in fact the best outcome for the GOP would be for Esty to hang in there and for feminists like Flexer to denounce her.  Esty won re-election in 2016 by a solid 58-to-42-percent margin, but the district itself, while loyally Democratic, gave Hillary Clinton only a 4% margin in 2016.  If enough Democrats are disgusted by Esty, a good GOP candidate (a woman, perhaps) could win, just as the candidacy of Roy Moore handed a safe GOP Senate seat to the Democrats in a special election.

Control of the House majority could hang in the balance here.  Watch for more Democrats to start pressuring Esty to reign and hand the seat to an untainted Democrat.

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