I went down a rabbit hole this afternoon, watching the proceedings of the North Dakota House from yesterday, when they voted to expel a member for the first time in history due to a pattern of harassing women. That member, Luke Simons, sounds like a real piece of work.
One of his main targets was a 29 year-old woman, Rep Emily O’Brien, also a Republican. When she was pregnant a couple of years ago, she had to move her desk on the floor as far as possible from Simons to avoid his constant harassment. Her floor speech is a little hard to find (start here and look for her name on the right), but here’s her statement on Facebook. Her speech was brave and painfully honest, relating how he embarrassed her in front of a guest she had brought to the floor of the House, and how his comments about a dress she wore led her to never wear it again.
She also told a story about Simons mentioning that his wife liked to wear thongs, and sometimes he did, too. This was in the context of his discussion of being kicked out of a shopping mall in Montana for open carrying. (That’s an asshole trifecta: disclosing your wife’s underwear choice, telling people yours, and open carrying.) O’Brien’s speech (and statement) also had a long list of stupid sexist remarks like Simons’ deep insight that she would make a good secretary since she could type so well.
O’Brien represents Grand Forks, a university town, and her seat was held by a Democrat a couple of sessions back. A quick look at her website shows a pretty anodyne, relatively apolitical set of good government positions. Frankly, I could see some independents and Democrats voting for her simply because it’s better to have a decent Republican representing you in a very Republican legislature, than a Democrat who’s part of a tiny 14 member minority in a 94 seat body.
When we talk of flipping state legislatures, you have to realize that being a small state rep is an incredibly shitty job. The salary for a member of the North Dakota House is $515 per month plus per diem while they are in session. There’s one House member for every 6,194 adults in the state. The House is in session during odd-numbered years for the four coldest months of the year (January-April), when temperatures in Bismarck regularly hit -20 F, and blizzards are frequent. It’s no mystery why jerks like Simons end up in the job, since he probably didn’t have a lot of competition.
(If you want to see another example of the kind of person who gets elected to these small state legislatures, be sure to have brain bleach handy before you click that link.)