Democratic candidate for governor Nate Boulton accused of sexual misconduct (Updated)

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State Sen. Nate Boulton. — official photo

Update: On Thursday morning, Nate Boulton announced he was suspending his campaign for governor.

On Wednesday, the Des Moines Register broke the news that three women have accused Nate Boulton of “touching them without their consent.” Boulton, a first term state senator, is currently running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reported, “One woman told the Des Moines Register that Boulton, now 38, repeatedly grabbed her buttocks at a bar in 2015. Two others told the Register that when Boulton was in law school more than a decade ago, he rubbed his clothed crotch against them, pressing his erect penis into their thighs.”

Boulton was married at the time of the alleged 2015 incident.

Sharon Wegner, a Des Moines attorney, told the Register that she and Boulton were in the same East Village bar in November 2015, and after he grabbed her buttock the first time, she tried to avoid being within his grasp.

“I turned. I stepped back. I stepped away,” Wegner said. “I moved to the other side of the group of people that we were with. But Nate pursued me the entire rest of the night.” One of Wegner’s friends who was in the bar that night confirmed the accuracy of her account to the Register.

“I don’t want to say it was constant, but it felt like every time he was near me his hand somehow found its way to my rear end,” Wegner recalled.

The other alleged incidents happened between 2002 and 2005.

Jessica Millage, now an attorney from the Des Moines area, said Boulton repeatedly rubbed his erection against her without her consent during social gatherings while the two attended Drake University Law School.

The third woman, who wished to remain anonymous, had an experience similar to Milage.

Boulton and his wife Andrea met with Pfannenstiel, as well as the Register’s political editor, Rachel Stassen-Berger, and its executive editor, Carol Hunter, to address the allegations.

Boulton was pressed repeatedly to confirm or deny whether the incidents occurred, but did not do so. Even though he didn’t provide any statement on what happened, Boulton repeatedly offered what he described as unqualified apologies. Those apologies, however, were all couched in a series of qualifications.

Typical of Boulton’s responses was,

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I want to say it is not my place to give credibility or qualifications or anything else to what people have said they felt was appropriate or inappropriate. That’s for them to decide. All I can say is that if I crossed a line and people feel that way, I apologize. I apologize publicly, and I offer an apology directly.

Asked directly if any of the incidents occurred, Boulton replied,

So, I’m not going to add any context to anything. I think if I add context it quickly becomes victim-blaming, and I don’t want to go down that path. All I can say is if someone felt that I did something inappropriate, I apologize for that.

Towards the end of the interview, the journalists asked Andrea Boulton if she wanted to say anything, but Nate Boulton cut off the questioning: “I will just say this — she’s not running for governor.”

Boulton finished a distant second in both recent polls in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, behind Fred Hubbell. He has received more endorsements from major labor union groups than any other candidate in the race. Boulton is the youngest primary candidate, turning 38 on Wednesday, the same day the news of these allegations broke.

As Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line noted, during a recent interview with Des Moines TV station WHO, Boulton was asked a question about the Me Too Movement: “Can you tell Iowans that you can assure them that you would not face any kind of inappropriate accusations, credible allegations as a leader?”

“Right, no, there’s nothing like that,” Boulton replied.

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