Alaska Democratic leaders said Friday that Kiana Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake should resign in the wake of an Anchorage Daily News report in which seven current and former aides at the Capitol described Westlake making unwanted sexual comments and physical contact.
Both House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, and Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau, issued statements Friday afternoon calling on Westlake to step down.
Steinau said Westlake should resign "immediately," adding that "the allegations against Rep. Westlake, as detailed in today's Anchorage Daily News, are serious and this behavior cannot be tolerated."
Steinau's statement came moments after a similar message was issued by leaders of Westlake's largely-Democratic House majority.
"We take very seriously our obligation to ensure everyone who works in the Capitol feels safe and respected," Edgmon said. "In light of recent reports of inappropriate behavior related to his position in the Legislature, House leadership believes Rep. Dean Westlake should resign from the office his constituents sent him to Juneau to represent. This is an extremely difficult decision to make, but it is a necessary decision."
Another member of Westlake's majority, Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn, endorsed Edgmon's message on Twitter, writing: "I 100 percent agree with this decision."
Westlake didn't immediately respond to a phone message Friday afternoon. An aide said late Friday that Westlake had no comment.
He issued a written apology Thursday after one former legislative aide went public with allegations against him. But he hasn't directly addressed the six other aides who worked at the Capitol this year who described unwanted physical contact and inappropriate comments in an Anchorage Daily News report published Friday.
"I can't discuss the recent allegations made against me because it is a confidential personnel matter," Westlake said in his statement Thursday. "I firmly believe that everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and professional working environment. I sincerely apologize if an encounter with me has made anyone uncomfortable. That has certainly never been my intent."
Westlake's largely Democratic majority claims 22 members in the 40-member House. If he steps down, his caucus would be left with 21 — the bare minimum to maintain its majority.
If Westlake resigns, local Democratic leaders in his district in northern Alaska would send a list of three potential replacements to Gov. Bill Walker; Walker would then choose one, who would be subject to the approval of House Democrats before being seated.
Edgmon said in a message that House majority leaders would move to eject Westlake from the caucus if he doesn't step down.
Alaska Democrats provided financial and political support to Westlake in his bid for his House seat last year. He narrowly beat the incumbent Democrat, Ben Nageak of Utqiaġvik, who provoked the party's attempt to unseat him by having joined the largely-Republican House majority.