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Republican Justin Hwang questions delay in taking action against accused lawmaker

PMG FILE PHOTO - Diego HernandezAn East Multnomah County senate candidate has added his voice to those calling for the resignation of a Portland lawmaker who faces multiple claims of verbal and physical sexual harassment.

Seven women have accused Rep. Diego Hernandez of sexual harassment. The two-term Portland Democrat, whose constituency includes portions of East Multnomah County, is also said to have created a hostile workplace in Salem.

A Legislative committee voted to implement measures against Hernandez, D-East Portland, including a requirement he provide 24-hour's notice before entering the Capitol — a largely symbolic gesture with most meetings happening virtually. Lawmakers also ordered Hernandez on Monday, May 4, not to have any contact with the seven women who submitted complaints.

Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Northeast Portland, called for Hernandez to resign from his seat in the Legislature, as did Senate District 25 candidate Justin Hwang, a Republican.

"I am appalled by the actions of Representative Diego Hernandez against the women who were brave enough to stand up to their abuser," Hwang wrote in a statement. "I hope they know they have many supporters behind them, ready to defend them, including myself."

Hwang wrote he commends lawmakers like Kotek in calling for a resignation, and that he hopes Hernandez "gets the help he needs." Hwang also negatively commented on how long it took for Hernandez's actions to be publicized.

"Swifter action could have been taken — I hope elected officials across East County will stand up and condemn Representative Hernandez, including Representative Chris Gorsek," Hwang wrote. "There is no such thing as a casual bystander when it comes to the reporting and condoning of sexual abuse and harassment."

Gorsek is a Democrat who will run against Hwang this fall for the Senate District 25 seat.

As a teacher at Mt. Hood Community College and former police officer, Gorsek thanked the women who came forward to share their experiences and concerns toward Hernandez.

"I deeply respect the process of a full and thorough investigation like the one being undertaken currently by the House Conduct Committee," Gorsek wrote. "While the investigation continues, it is clear that significant and credible allegations have been made against Rep. Hernandez and I believe he should resign."

Hernandez is running unopposed in the May 19 primary for a third term, and has given no indication he plans on stepping aside. He is also on the Reynolds School Board.

Hernandez has faced complaints before. He took a leave of absence on April 2 after the Willamette Week reported he was the subject of a restraining order alleging violent behavior while drunk. Three years ago it was alleged he kept a list of female lobbyists ranked on their attractiveness. Legislative investigators were unable to find evidence of such a list.

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