Progressive Iowa gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Nate Boulton (D.) suspended his campaign Thursday after three women accused him of sexual misconduct.
Lawyer Sharon Wegner told the Des Moines Register that Boulton repeatedly grabbed her behind at a bar in 2015, while two other women accused him of inappropriate touching while they were in law school over a decade ago. While he initially attempted to continue his run for governor after the article was published Wednesday, Boulton announced Thursday he was suspending his campaign.
"These the [sic] last 48 hours have been trying. I again offer an apology to those whom I have harmed in any way," he said in a statement.
"We join together to support the nominee and elect Democrats up and down the ticket," he also said. "I will do all I can to support that mission and will never stop fighting for progressive causes."
Today, I am suspending my campaign for governor. I want to thank all my supporters for their hard work this past year. My full statement is below. – NB pic.twitter.com/QsslCGUup6
— Nate Boulton (@NateBoulton) May 24, 2018
According to Wegner, Boulton groped her repeatedly at a bar and followed her around while his wife was nearby, and another woman, Ash Bruxvoort, claims to have seen it.
"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 said.
"It felt very flagrant," Wegner said, noting his wife’s presence and her sense that their conversation had not been flirtatious. She said he seemed intoxicated.
"We were standing and talking and up kind of by the bar area," Bruxvoort said. "And Nate was standing kind of like next to Sharon and I saw him like touch her back and touch her ass. And I looked at Sharon like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ … It was definitely not like an accidental thing."
Wegner had not wanted to come forward about the incident but said revelations about former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s alleged assaults convinced her to bring her story public.
"I think it’s been hard because I want [Boulton] to be the person who he says he is," Wegner said.
Wegner and Bruxvoort are both Democrats, and the latter is active with the Democratic Socialists of America. Bruxvoort said she may have considered voting for Boulton if she had not seen him grope Wegner.
The candidate on Wednesday said he did not recall the events in the same way as the accusers but did not want to engage in "victim-blaming" by adding "additional context" to the incidents.
"I don’t have the same recollection," he said. "But I am not going to offer any additional context to this, other than to say if someone’s perspective is that it was inappropriate and I crossed a line and I misread a situation in a social setting, I do apologize."
"I think if I add context it quickly becomes victim-blaming, and I don’t want to go down that path," Boutlon added.
His campaign suspension comes after he said Wednesday he would continue pursuing the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, arguing that his vision ought to be represented in the race.
"I think I owe it to those people who have supported me to have that vision tested at the ballot box," he said.
Two other women said Boulton, fully clothed, rubbed his erect penis against them at bars during their time at Drake Law School. Jessica Millage said he did it repeatedly, even as she tried to ignore it, and a third anonymous accuser described a similar incident.
"It was probably three or four times total before I completely registered that this is a thing that he’s doing," Millage said. "This isn’t just some weird accident or something."
Millage and the other accuser are Republicans; the latter cited the possibility of professional repercussions as reason for anonymity.
Boulton called for nuance in dealing with the matter, saying it was an opportunity for men to learn about how to behave in different "social settings" without having their lives ruined.
"I hope this is a teachable moment for young men as this comes forward," he said in the Register‘s Wednesday report.
"I also hope that there’s room for something between victim-blaming and life-ruining on both sides," he also said.