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Former North Dakota lawmaker won’t challenge expulsion

March 11, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota lawmaker expelled for allegedly threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol said Thursday he will not challenge the expulsion in court.

The state House expelled GOP Rep. Luke Simons last week, marking the first time since statehood a lawmaker has been ousted from the Legislature. The 43-year-old rancher and barber is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior toward female lawmakers, staff and interns.

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Simons, who has denied wrongdoing, has argued he wasn’t being afforded due process.

“Unfortunately, the only way I can immediately correct this injustice is to allow someone else to serve,” Simons said in a statement. “There are too many important bills that could pass or fail by a single vote. I cannot in good conscience prioritize my legal battle over the potential outcome of important legislation for the people of North Dakota.”

Majority Leader Chet Pollert, who co-sponsored the expulsion resolution, said Simons had been given “multiple chances to avoid being in this situation” and that the process to expel Simons went “above and beyond what is legally required.”

The North Dakota Constitution gives both chambers of the Legislature the right to expel a member with two-thirds approval.

District parties have the power to name a successor to an open seat.

Legislative Council Director John Bjornson said Simons’ district party was formally notified on Monday of the open seat and has until March 29 to fill it. If the district party refuses to name someone to the seat, it would be filled by Pollert in his role as chairman of the 17-member Legislative Management committee, which includes Senate and House floor leaders from both parties.

Simons, in his statement, claimed the district committee was “willing to reappoint me, but I am concerned that there would be an effort to refuse me being re-seated, even though they should be obligated to do so.”

A majority of the House would have to vote to seat Simons, if he were to be reappointed to the seat by his district committee.