Under the Dome

NC Democratic leaders call on Raleigh Democrat to resign over sexual harassment allegations

State Rep. Duane Hall speaks to the crowd prior to former president Bill Clinton's remarks at a Hillary Clinton for North Carolina campaign event Monday, March 7, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the NC Democratic Party, called on Hall to resign on Feb. 28, 2018.
State Rep. Duane Hall speaks to the crowd prior to former president Bill Clinton's remarks at a Hillary Clinton for North Carolina campaign event Monday, March 7, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the NC Democratic Party, called on Hall to resign on Feb. 28, 2018. jhknight@newsobserver.com

Gov. Roy Cooper and leaders of the Democratic Party in North Carolina are calling on a member of their party in the state House to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment.

State Rep. Duane Hall, a 51-year-old Raleigh Democrat in his third term, is accused of inappropriate conduct by five people – some of them anonymous – in a story published Wednesday by NC Policy Watch, a news organization that is part of the liberal advocacy group the NC Justice Center.

Hall has denied the allegations. He told Policy Watch that he believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that he’s never sexually harassed any women in his time as a state legislator.

“These allegations are disturbing, and I believe he should resign,” Cooper said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “We must create a culture where harassment of any kind is unacceptable.”

Hall has said he was considering a run for lieutenant governor in 2020.

One woman quoted in the Policy Watch story, Jessie White, told The News & Observer on Monday that Hall behaved inappropriately to her on three occasions. White now lives in Orlando, but used to live in North Carolina and has worked on Democratic campaigns since 2014.

She said the first incident happened in 2016 outside the Anchor Bar on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Hall told White that he could use a new legislative assistant, but that she would “need to gain 100 pounds first” because she was “too attractive,” according to White.

Another incident happened outside the Foundation whiskey bar on Fayetteville, she said. Hall put his hand around her waist, she said. Another incident happened at The Green Light bar off Hargett Street, White said. She said Hall came in while she was workingthere. She told him that she was having issues with men.

“He leaned in really close, ‘You give me an hour, you’ll forget,’” White recalled of her conversation with Hall.

Hall, for his part, denied those allegations in an interview on Tuesday.

“I would never had said anything like that to her,” he said, adding that the alleged around-the-waist incident “never happened.”

“I’ve never reached out to her without her reaching out to touch me,” Hall said.

Hall said White repeatedly asked him about an open aide position, but that he had someone else in mind.

“She came to my office repeatedly asking me to hire her,” he said. “I felt that she was trying to pressure me to hire her.”

White denied that she sought a job from Hall.

The Policy Watch story quoted anonymous sources accusing Hall of kissing two women without their consent on two different occasions.

Hall announced in December he’s engaged. Before that, Raleigh Magazine described Hall in 2015 as one of Raleigh’s most eligible bachelors.

Cooper’s call for Hall to resign followed those of Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party, and state Rep. Darren Jackson, House minority leader.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable – no matter the party or politics,” Goodwin said. “These are serious allegations and Representative Hall should step down. The North Carolina Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment and we continue to encourage women to speak out against inappropriate behavior of any kind.”

Jackson said Hall made “unacceptable mistakes in harassing women.”

“The allegations surrounding Representative Duane Hall are serious and the women involved deserve to be heard and supported,” Jackson said.

“He has made unacceptable mistakes in harassing women. Yesterday, I spoke with him and asked him to resign. I think it is right that he step back from public service, work to make amends, and learn from his past mistakes.”

The window for candidates to file to run for a seat in the General Assembly closed at noon Wednesday. Hall filed to run for re-election in District 11. If he doesn’t resign, he’ll face two women in the Democratic primary.

Democrats Heather Metour of Cary and Allison Dahle of Raleigh filed to run for Hall’s seat. Tyler Brooks and Shawn Hamilton, both of Cary, filed to run in the Republican primary. Travis Groo, a Libertarian from Cary, also filed to run for the seat.

Metour was mentioned often in the murder trial of Brad Cooper, a Cary man convicted of killing his wife.

Though Metour did not testify at the 2011 trial, Cooper acknowledged having an extramarital affair with her as his marriage was falling apart.

Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, called the Policy Watch report “shocking and repulsive” and said he echoes the Democratic Party’s call for Hall to step down.

“My heart goes out to all the women Rep. Hall may have sexually harassed over the years,” Hellwig said. He also called on Democratic candidates to return “every penny or donate that lecherous, tainted money to an appropriate women’s charity.”

Democratic N.C. House candidate Terence Everitt canceled a fundraising event he was scheduled to have at Hall’s law office on Thursday.

“He should resign immediately,” Everitt said. “I believe these women and commend the bravery it took for them to come forward. It’s upsetting that in 2018 women still have to fight to make sure they are treated with respect. No woman should ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable in her workplace.”

The Young Democrats of North Carolina organization released a statement saying they support the “Me Too” movement and that they “will not tolerate behavior from any leader that compromises our most deeply held values of dignity, fairness and justice.”

Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment, from activism in the '70s and the Civil Rights Movement, has been through the courts.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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