GOP Sen. Karin Housley (St. Marys Point) hasn't spent too much time as anyone's employee. Not in the past couple decades.
Housley married well (ex-pro hockey millionaire and current coach Phil Housley) and launched her own businesses, first dabbling in shoddy investment advice -- and "writing," sort of -- before selling big houses to rich people, typically in or near the Stillwater area.
Evidently bored by this, Karin decided she's also a public servant, and therefore deserved a seat in the state senate. Housley won office in 2012, ostensibly becoming an employee of the people of Senate District 39, where her constituents are largely drawn from of a well-off suburban populace.
Housley is only occasionally good at using her position to get something done. Despite her thin portfolio, she decided this year to seek a promotion to United States Senate. She's running against DFL U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, an accomplished and self-made woman whose reputation is so clean Housley has essentially resorted to running against Keith Ellison instead.
Quite a coincidence that Housley feels so strongly about Ellison's abuse allegations. She doesn't usually care about how men treat women.
Speaking out of the other side of her mouth, Housley is fearful for teenage boys who are accused of raping teenage girls. Well, at least the ones who grow up to go to Yale, and then get nominated to the Supreme Court, and have designs on ending abortion rights in America. That's who Karin's worried about.
Working women? Eh, not so much.
DFL Rep. Erin Maye Quade (Apple Valley) did not have high hopes when a "task force" (often a way of quietly snuffing out a vexation) was convened to fix Minnesota's useless sexual harassment law. Maye Quade had herself been harassed at work, by not one but two Capitol colleagues, GOP Rep. Tony Cornish and DFL Sen. Dan Schoen. Both had to resign after she (and others) proved their guilt as predators.
Maye Quade was "pleasantly surprised" by the legislative bill that came out of this task force, one that would've expanded the definition of actionable sexual harasment. Under existing law, harassment or abuse must be provably "severe and pervasive," meaning your boss has to be really creepy, on multiple occasions, and over a significant period of time, before a judge or jury must give a shit about your miserable fate.
Maye Quade's experiences as a young legislator probably wouldn't qualify. This upset her. She was heartened to learn that, on the House side, the harassment bill was carried by no less than House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers), an attorney by trade, and someone Maye Quade agreed with on few occasions. This was one.
Peppin sprinted her bill through two committees and whipped her caucus into shape. There were few objections; when Peppin's redefinition of sexual harassment hit the House floor, it passed 121-4.
And in the Senate? Inaction.
As chief author of the Senate version, Karin Housley was responsible for getting her bill scheduled, amended if necessary, passed out of committees, and booked for the big vote on the Senate floor. She did none of this. Instead Housley decided she was concerned about "unintended consequences [for men who like flirting with or staring at or touching coworkers without permission]." (Bracketed phrase City Pages'.)
Housley only realized this discomfort (with her own bill!) in early May, with two weeks left on the legislative calendar, just late enough that no other senator could grab the issue and drag it across the goal line.
Who put this "unintended consequences" idea in Karin's head? Why, the richest people and biggest corporations -- which are people, too -- in Minnesota, that's who! The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Bankers Association lobbied against the bill. Both spend plenty on advocacy, though in this case Housley made it easy for them.
She never pushed her sexual harassment bill, and dropped it to the ground without much of a second thought.
"I had heard from women across all different ideologies, and ages, about how much this issue had impacted them in their life," says Maye Quade, who became a sounding board for victims' experiences after she #MeToo'd two legislators out of office. "I was shocked that it was a woman who stalled the only attempt to address sexual harassment in Minnesota."
Maye Quade has no knowlegde of Housley's personal or professional experience, and chooses not to speculate, though she's less than impressed with how Karin handles the boorish behavior of fellow Republicans. ("[Housley's] been flashing everybody," said GOP Secretary of State candidate John Howe; "they're like frat brothers," Housley told BuzzFeed; John Howe is 55 years old.)
But ignorance is no excuse. If Karin Housley's never been made uncomfortable or taken advantage of, women she represents undoubtedly have.
"Listen to your constituents," Maye Quade said. "What's affecting them should affect you.
"You would think women would stand by other women, especially on this issue. And especially if you're elected."