SANTA FE – New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla says he is seeking advice from friends, family and advisers on whether to continue his campaign for lieutenant governor, amid calls for him to drop out due to decade-old sexual harassment allegations.
Padilla, an Albuquerque Democrat, has long denied the allegations and said Tuesday he is continuing to attend previously scheduled campaign events.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who is running for governor in 2018, recently urged Padilla to end his campaign for lieutenant governor in light of the allegations, which stem from a previous job.
A spokeswoman from Lujan Grisham’s campaign told the Journal the congresswoman previously discussed the issue with Padilla and said it was “his decision to run” for lieutenant governor.
“Congresswoman Lujan Grisham has known and worked with Michael in his current capacity, and has been clear, as have members of our campaign team, that his actions were not defensible,” campaign communications director Sarah Elliott said Monday. “When asked by a reporter, she made her position clear to them as well.”
The state Republican Party has criticized Lujan Grisham for the timing of her remarks about Padilla, pointing out that the congresswoman recently posted a picture on social media of Padilla and her dancing at a political fundraiser.
In a statement this week, state GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi suggested Lujan Grisham should call on Padilla to resign from the Senate – where he serves as the Democratic whip – if she thinks he’s unfit for elected office.
Padilla was accused in two federal lawsuits of harassing women while helping the city of Albuquerque overhaul a problem-plagued emergency call center in 2006. The city ended up settling “sexually hostile work environment” claims stemming from Padilla’s six-week tenure as a supervisor.
He has denied accusations that he asked women on dates despite repeated rejections and made inappropriate comments, including saying that, in his home, “Women stay home, make tortillas and have babies.”
“I was raised at the end of my high school years by my three sisters, so I would never dream of saying something like that,” Padilla said. “This is not who I am; this is not a pattern. This was 11 years ago and there has never been an accusation like this again.”
Padilla helped New Mexico this year become the first state to ban shaming children with unpaid meal accounts in public school lunchrooms. He drew on his own childhood growing up in foster care in one of the nation’s poorest states, citing his experience mopping floors in exchange for free midday meals.
Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party has announced plans to require all candidates to undergo training for sexual harassment prevention or lose access to its voter databases and communications apparatus.