The minority leader of the New Hampshire Senate was arrested and charged with simple assault, domestic violence and criminal mischief after he hit a woman, bit her in the arm and forced his way into her home.
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat from Whitefield, is accused of slapping an unnamed “adult female victim,” punching her in the stomach, and biting her on two separate occasions in attacks that occurred between August 2017 and June 2018.
Out on bail
The former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Woodburn is currently serving his third term in the state senate. He is currently free on $1,000 bail and $10,000 personal recognizance, and his arraignment is set for Aug. 20 in Lancaster.
Woodburn has so far ignored bipartisan calls for his resignation, and he issued a personal statement late Thursday addressing the charges against him:
This afternoon, I learned that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. I voluntarily responded to the police station, cooperated with law enforcement during the booking process, and was released. I intend to fully address and defend against these charges in court.
Calls for resignation
Despite the senator’s combative tone, the New Hampshire Democratic Party doesn’t seem very convinced of Woodburn’s innocence. They joined the state’s Democratic congressional delegation and members of the state Senate Democratic Caucus in demanding the disgraced legislator’s resignation. State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley explained:
The New Hampshire Democratic Party stands firm in our belief that any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence is completely unacceptable behavior for anyone let alone our public officials who should all be held to a higher standard.
Woodburn is also feeling pressure from outside of his own party. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu called the allegations “morally reprehensible” and demanded Woodburn’s immediate resignation in a Thursday evening tweet:
Senator Woodburn’s morally reprehensible, violent behavior has no place in public service, or anywhere else. Domestic violence will not be tolerated in New Hampshire. Senator Woodburn must resign. Immediately.
— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) August 2, 2018
Meanwhile, state Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald questioned how long the Democratic Party in New Hampshire had known about the allegations against the senator. Buckley’s statement condemning sexual harassment and calling for Woodburn’s retirement was published about 15 minutes prior to the attorney general’s press release, indicating that state Democrats may have kept the allegations a secret.
“How long did Democrats cover these events up? Every Democrat now needs to answer this question: what did you know and when did you know it?” MacDonald said in a statement.
“All of these questions must be thoroughly investigated,” he continued, “and I have full confidence that the Attorney General’s office will do everything it can to bring this tragic case to a just conclusion.”
Join the crowd
Woodburn’s arrest comes after dozens of his colleagues in state legislatures around the country have been charged with sexual misdeeds in the aftermath of the nationwide #MeToo Movement. A Kentucky House Speaker and three of his colleagues, as well as state senators in Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Florida and Arizona were all accused of various sexual improprieties in the first month following public accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
“The whole culture of the inequality in power, any time you have that, it is ripe for these things to happen,” California Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D) told The Hill last year at the height of the allegations.
Women across the country are no longer willing to stay silent and submit to a culture of abuse from powerful men in positions of authority. Woodburn is just the latest politician to fall from grace after the nationwide reckoning.