MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota's legislative assembly will resume its work today, March 3, having taken a break for the midway crossover checkpoint.
Looming over that restart is a singular question: What to do about Rep. Luke Simons?
The news I broke about Simons' profanity-laced tirade against two other lawmakers last week quickly turned into an avalanche of problematic revelations about the man.
It turns out Legislative Council, the state agency which employs lawyers and staff who serve the Legislature, has been keeping a file on the most egregious allegations of Simons' behavior, including unwanted backrubs and uncomfortable conversations about thongs.
Things have gotten so bad that there have been restrictions on Simons working with female staff.
Two women elected to the Legislature — Rep. Brandy Pyle and Rep. Emily O'Brien, both Republicans — have also provided details about Simons' behavior. Pyle's was documented in Legislative Council's file; O'Brien's was revealed to me in an interview.
The harassment was so severe for the latter that she ultimately moved her seat across the House chamber, ostensibly to be nearer to the bathrooms but, in reality, to get away from Simons.
In the wake of these revelations has come a full-throated defense of Simons, both from the man himself and his supporters who are largely disciples of the secretive Bastiat Caucus of Trumpish legislative Republicans.
They argue that Simons has done no wrong and that the accusations against him are a concoction motivated by a cabal of left-wingers out to hamstring an effective conservative lawmaker.
Which might be more believable if Simons were, in fact, effective.
If the man has an ideology, it is bewilderment. Simons routinely makes it clear that he is clueless about many things, including some of the bills he sponsors. We know this because, when called upon in floor debates to defend his bills, he often doesn't know what's in them.
If these more buffoonish qualities were the sum total of the complaints against Simons we could leave it as a matter to be decided by his constituents, but the behavior is more sinister than mere buffoonery.
Many women who work in, and around, the Legislature do not feel safe around Simons.
We're not talking about a couple of ill-advised jokes, or behavior that is merely socially awkward. We're talking about a pattern of behavior, over the course of years, that in the aggregate appears to be calculated.
"He came over to insult us," television anchor Molly Martinez told me last week, detailing her own experience with Simons at the 2018 NDGOP convention in Grand Forks. "I’ve experienced sexism in this line of work, but never so brazen and in your face."
That sort of behavior is unacceptable. Politics and ideology have nothing to do with it.
Luke Simons has failed to behave like a decent human being.
He must be removed from the Legislature.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.