Editorial: Time for Cornish to go

Rep. Tony Cornish during a Minnesota House Public Safety Committee hearing in March 2013,  Jim Mone | AP file

In its editorial today, the Star Tribune has called for the expulsion of Rep. Tony Cornish, the Republican lawmaker accused of sexual harassment. Last week, the newspaper called for an end to the career of  state Sen. Dan Schoen, a Democrat similarly accused.

Neither Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, nor Cornish, R-Vernon Center, have taken the obvious hint from colleagues to go, prompting the call for the Legislature to begin expulsion proceedings.

Cornish acknowledges some of the harassment while denying other accusations.

In its editorial, the Star Tribune said if the two lawmakers were accused of a crime, it would support a process requiring the finding of guilt.

But…

But this is not a criminal matter. Rather, what’s at stake in these instances are the preservation of public trust in an institution of authority and every district’s right to effective representation within that institution.

The accusations against these two lawmakers are backed by enough credible evidence to have hobbled their effectiveness. Lawmaking is a relationship-based activity. A reputation for making repeated and unwanted sexual advances is toxic to the working relationships with both men and women that legislators need in order to represent their districts well.

Schoen has been in office for more than four years; Cornish, for nearly 15. That’s long enough for both of them to know that they can’t soon recover the trust that effective legislative service requires. They should allow their districts’ voters to choose someone who can.

The editorial board also condemned Rep. Mary Franson, an Alexandria Republican, who tweeted “A guy who thinks he’s a girl is still a guy with a mental condition,” in the aftermath of the election of two transgender council members in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the three women who’ve stepped forward to describe the allegations of a Capitol culture of harassment against women sat down together for the first time in an interview on KARE.

“Once you hold, you start holding people accountable, the folks who maybe haven’t come forward yet, it sends a message that the behavior is — you can’t do this anymore,” Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, told Jana Shortal.

And the Star Tribune isn’t the only newspaper calling out sexual harassment among politicians.

In Alabama, the Birmingham News carried an editorial today calling Republican Roy Moore, a candidate for U.S. Senate, “grossly unfit for office.”

The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated. They should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof exists. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters.

Nor should these women’s statements be diminished because the incidents are decades old. If readers objectively look at the reality of life for sex assault victims – at the public doubt and vitriol they face – they’ll understand why girls and women do not come forward readily, or early.

And sadly, the reactions of many over the past several days support modern understanding of women’s reluctance to voice these things. They stayed quiet while Moore ascended in local and state politics, but they have spoken out as he seems on the verge of attaining national office. For that, Alabama and America owe them respect and appreciation.

We believe these women.