North Dakota House expels lawmaker accused of misconduct

The North Dakota House on Thursday took an unprecedented step and booted a lawmaker accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 69-25 on a resolution to expel GOP Rep. Luke Simons. marking the first time since statehood a lawmaker has been kicked out of the Legislature.

Republicans hold an 80-14 advantage in the chamber. Sixty-three members of the House were needed to approve the expulsion resolution.

Simons, who has denied wrongdoing and refused Republican leaders’ calls for him to resign, is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior, dating back to shortly after he took office in 2017.

The resolution to expel Simons was crafted by Democratic and Republican House leaders.

Simons has said the allegations “have been totally misconstrued and taken out of context.”

A 14-page document compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Council includes allegations that Simons made “advances” toward female staffers and interns, commented on their appearances and tried to give one staffer an unsolicited shoulder massage. One staffer described his behavior as “really creepy.”

Republican Rep. Emily O’Brien issued a statement last week saying that his harassment was so pervasive that she switched desks to get away from him.

The Legislative Council this week released two additional documents alleging inappropriate and bizarre behavior by Simons, a 43-year-old rancher and barber who is married and has five children. One woman said Simons referred to her as “that pretty one,” and insulted her husband, “saying that usually women who are classy dressers like myself are married to shmucks like my husband.”

The woman, whose name was redacted in documents, also alleged that Simons once placed his lunch box in her office before leaving to use the restroom and said, “bet you hope there’s not a bomb in there, huh.”

Simons is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. He has insisted on social media that he’s being targeted for his politics.

Simons’ attorney, Lynn Boughey, said he believes the House cannot expel Simons, and beyond censure, can only impeach him, which would require a Senate trial.

Legislative leaders and their lawyers note the North Dakota Constitution says either chamber can expel a member with two-thirds approval.