In my dream world the biggest story of the year would would have been a triumphant, tri-partisan agreement on water quality sweeping to legislative victory and signed into law. I knew that was all over when a friend sent me a link to the Burlington Free Press article that broke the story last night. Instead, 2015 will be remembered as the year that Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin County/Alburgh) was arrested (last night) and brought up on three counts of sexual assault and three counts of misdemeanor prohibited acts (this morning).
First, I’m going to follow John Walters’ sage advice and focus first on the fact that these are allegations, and Norm plead “Not Guilty” this morning. If the charges prove true, our sympathies should be with the victims.
The Paul Heintz article in Seven Days included an excerpt from the affidavits released this morning by the Vermont State Police. They include a phone call recording between McAllister and a woman whose son was renting from Sen. McAllister and was behind on payments.
“I was worried,” she told McAllister. “I said, ‘Oh my God, is he throwing my son out?’ I was scared, Norm.”
McAllister replied: “Well that’s going to depend on how willing you are to please me. How’s that? Are you willing?”
“I told you I would,” the woman said. “As long as it’s going to take care of my son. My son means a lot to me.”
“We’ll see how it happens,” McAllister answered.
Now, I’m the chair of the Franklin County Democratic Party and I’d be lying if I said that I was ignoring the upside of this whole awful mess for my fellow Democrats. However, I’m troubled by the near giddiness that some of my liberal friends have shown knowing that Sen. McAllister will be placed in the position of defending himself against these serious allegations.
This story isn’t funny one bit. It’s about women being coerced and violated in a way that should make us all angry, whether these particular allegations prove true or not. Former Rep. Rachel Weston used the occasion to speak out about her first encounter with Sen. McAllister when she joined the Vermont House. Sharing a link to a story about McAllister’s arrest on her Facebook page she said:
This is the same pervert who made a comment about wanting to see me naked during my first day in the legislature in 2007, when I was 25. I remember another prominent Republican accused me of lying when I talked openly about it being harassment.
This should not be the Story of the Year. We all deserve a lot better. I hope that justice is served and that we can focus our energy for the rest of the year on empowering women and improving our state. I for one, can’t wait until the cloud of this scandal passes over Franklin County. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a while.