Advocacy groups seek Sen. Ivey-Soto's resignation - Albuquerque Journal

Advocacy groups seek Sen. Ivey-Soto’s resignation

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque

A coalition of advocacy groups accused state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of a pattern of abusive behavior against women Monday and called on his colleagues to remove him from office if he won’t resign.

Their push for his removal comes as Ivey-Soto faces a separate complaint filed last month under the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy.

The groups – including Common Cause New Mexico, Equality New Mexico and New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, all of which have a substantial presence at the Legislature – issued an open letter to the Senate on Monday outlining allegations against Ivey-Soto, largely involving women not identified by name.

But some of the women agreed in Journal interviews to go public with their allegations.

One lobbyist, Heather Ferguson of Common Cause New Mexico, for example, said Ivey-Soto referred to her and a colleague by a degrading nickname – “Lips and Hips” – and an advocate of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, Miranda Viscoli, said the senator once screamed and cursed at her.

Other allegations in the letter – by women who aren’t named – accuse Ivey-Soto of unwanted touching and sexual advances targeting female lobbyists outside the Roundhouse, and of groping a female advocate inside the Capitol.

In an interview Monday, Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he will cooperate with any formal investigation into the allegations.

“The Legislature has a process to address allegations of harassment, bullying and sexual misconduct,” he said. “I am and will participate in any such process.”

He added: “Every person should feel comfortable coming into the Capitol.”

The burst of new public allegations comes a month after another lobbyist, Marianna Anaya, filed a complaint against Ivey-Soto under the anti-harassment policy.

She accused him of improperly touching her in 2015, and of sexual harassment and abusive behavior this year as she sought support for a voting rights bill before his committee.

He vigorously denied the allegations.

He told the Journal in February that he’s a loud talker by nature, and passionate, but that he never yelled at Anaya, as she alleged.

The status of Anaya’s complaint is not clear. Any investigation would remain confidential unless there’s a finding of probable cause to support the allegations, triggering public hearings.

The advocacy groups that issued Monday’s letter said they had heard from many women “who have suffered sexual harassment, gender-based bullying, or inappropriate advances from Senator Ivey-Soto.” They said Ivey-Soto has a pattern of “abusive behavior toward women” that warrants his removal from the Senate.

Among the groups signing the letter are representatives of Common Cause, OLE-Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, Equality New Mexico, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, NM Native Vote and the Center for Civic Policy.

The next steps aren’t clear. Chris Nordstrum, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, suggested accusations against a senator would be handled under anti-harassment or similar policies.

“While Senate leadership cannot comment on specifics,” he said, “allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously, and are dealt with under the governing policies, procedures and statutes. There’s nothing more I can confirm or comment on at this time. Any complaint and/or investigation is handled confidentially.”

Four women made their allegations public Monday:

• Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said Ivey-Soto repeatedly referred to her and a colleague as “Lips and Hips” five to six years ago, over their objection. “It was really sexist and degrading,” Ferguson told the Journal.

They didn’t report it, she said, because it would have been “political suicide” and harmed the causes they advocate for.

• Viscoli, the lobbyist against gun violence, said Ivey-Soto screamed and cursed at her moments before she was to testify in a committee in 2017, which she reported to Senate leadership. “If that kind of behavior has been going on for any length of time,” she said Monday, “this man has no business being in public service.”

• Gayle Krueger, then a University of New Mexico staff member, said Ivey-Soto in the 1990s pressed her against a wall and screamed in her face. He was a student at the time, she said, and had been elected chair of a graduate student government organization.

• Carmen López, then a program officer at the charitable Thornberg Foundation, said Ivey-Soto yelled at her during a union fundraiser held between 2014 and 2018. He initiated a conversation about legislation he had worked on and reacted strongly when she disagreed with him.

“He just went ballistic – red in the face, spitting, yelling, getting louder and louder. It wasn’t a conversation,” López said. “I said one sentence and then he just lost it at me.”

López’s allegations are not in Monday’s letter, but she shared them when contacted by the Journal.

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