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Nonprofit leader with exploratory campaign denies many claims, but says he has grown and changed.

COURTESY CHARLES MCGEE - Charles McGee, candidate for Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, says he's learned from the episode 10 years ago when he was accused of stalking.At a time when men's treatment of women has occupied the public consciousness, a 10-year-old stalking order could complicate Charles McGee's exploratory campaign for Multnomah County commissioner.

A longtime nonprofit leader, McGee, 32, in September set up a candidate committee for a bid to represent District 2, which includes North and Northeast Portland. While he has not formally declared he is running, he has raised more than $15,000 in campaign contributions.

In 2007, McGee was the subject of a stalking petition from a then-21-year-old woman. In her petition to Multnomah County Circuit Court, Patrice Hardy wrote that she had repeatedly asked McGee to leave her alone over a span of 18 months, but he refused.

"I have told him over 10 times that I do not like him, and I want absolutely nothing to do with him," she wrote. "He will not take no for an answer."

Hardy wrote that she became alarmed on Aug. 12 of that year when McGee, then 22, entered her house without permission after she repeatedly told him to go away — adding that he left after she began screaming while "preparing to defend myself."

A judge issued a temporary stalking order on Aug. 17, 2007, barring McGee from contact with Hardy. Two weeks later, Hardy filed a police report saying a friend of McGee's had called her family and made threatening statements, trying to get her to drop the stalking order.

Two weeks after that, a judge confirmed the previous stalking order, saying McGee could not contact Hardy for three years.

Hardy is the daughter of well-known local Pastor WG Hardy Jr. of Highland Christian Center. She and her father declined to comment for this article.

McGee says he's matured

McGee calls the episode a "painful time," saying Hardy was his "first love." He noted that the petition does not accuse him of violence or sexual misconduct.

"I've learned from it and grown from it," he said. "I was in my early 20s."

McGee said he was never a stalker, and contended that Hardy's testimony in court was false in many ways.

A recording of the hearing shows that Judge Terry Hannon dismissed McGee's denials after hearing from him, Hardy, witnesses on both sides, and reading emails McGee sent Hardy.

"The evidence is pretty clear that this respondent has just been obsessed with this petitioner," Hannon said. Then, addressing McGee, the judge added: "She has said to you 'This is over,' and yet you keep coming."

Hannon likened the case to the classic stalking scenario, saying the repeated contact "scares them and they don't know what else to do. It is the fear of the unknown that makes the stalking case so dangerous."

Conflicting accounts

While McGee retained a lawyer to represent him in court, Hardy represented herself, cross-examining McGee and his witnesses.

Hardy denied having any meaningful relationship with McGee, saying that after meeting in early 2006, she spoke with him often over the course of about four weeks, only to decide he was "two-faced," she said in court testimony.

She added that since then, she'd changed her number multiple times to escape him, but he kept getting her number from friends, even paying her phone bills against her wishes.

She said he bragged of his political connections, and that nothing could happen to him, adding that he was intent on "forcing" her to be with him.

McGee testified that contrary to Hardy's claims, they did have a relationship, though he didn't say to what extent it was a romantic one. He claimed she became angry with him for lying to her about having dated her sister.

His mother and sister and a friend testified in his support, saying he was not at all dangerous and they believed the two had been an item.

Hardy, however, testified that McGee flew to San Diego, where she was living for a time, despite her telling him not to come. He brought her brother-in-law, his employee, as a way to "force" her to see him, she said.

She said that he walked into various McDonald's outlets to find her, hoping to find the one that employed her.

McGee claimed in court that Hardy invited him to San Diego, picked him up from the airport and dropped him off. This account caused Hardy to sound exasperated as she cross-examined McGee.

"Charles, are you lying?" she said.

"Why would I do that?" he responded

"I picked you up at the airport, Charles?" she said. "I dropped you off at the airport? Even though I was working, and you texted me when you were leaving? Answer the question honestly."

After McGee's lawyer objected, Hardy resumed her cross-examination: "OK, answer the question: Are you lying?"

The recording does not capture McGee responding directly, though the sound of a man's loud laughing into the microphone can be heard on the recording.

"He is lying," Hardy interjected, before the judge chided her to not argue with witnesses.

She said in court that a month before the hearing, on Aug. 12, 2007, McGee entered the house she was staying in despite her having told him repeatedly she didn't want to talk to him. She was alone and scared, she said.

He left after she began screaming and was "preparing to defend myself," she wrote in her petition.

But McGee, on the stand, said he left as soon as she asked him to.

Hardy noted that she submitted more than 30 emails from McGee to the judge, adding, "not one of which did I reply to." She said the emails were disturbing since McGee talks of struggling with "control."

"Your honor, it is so frustrating. It scares me because he will not leave me alone. He thinks that he does not have to. He thinks he has the power to walk in people's houses and nothing will be done," she testified.

Cited alcohol abuse

"Yes, he's a nice person right now, in his suit, but when he gets drunk he's a different person," she said. "That's when I get scared because he always comes to me and harasses me when he's drunk."

Cross-examining McGee, she asked if he thought it odd he kept pursuing her despite her not having talked to him for an entire year.

Responded McGee, "I have not pursued you in a romantic form, I have simply pursued you ... all I want is closure, all I want is to make sure that I did not hurt you."

Hardy urged the judge to read the emails to see that McGee was lying, and that he continued to try to be romantic with her.

Hardy's sister testified that two weeks before the hearing, after the filing of the stalking petition, a friend of McGee's called her and made threats intended to get the stalking petition withdrawn. Her claim is echoed in the police report filed at the time.

Political implications

McGee would be running to succeed Multnomah Commissioner Loretta Smith, who is termed out. Two women have filed to run for the county seat, Maria Garcia and Susheela Jayapal.

Whoever wins will earn a yearly salary of more than $100,000 and oversee a more than $2 billion budget.

Ellen Seljan, who teaches politics and political science at Lewis & Clark College, said the stalking episode could well have an effect on the race.

"Personal scandals have had a long-standing negative effect on votes received by candidates, averaging in the low double digits," said Seljan, an associate professor. She added that harassment and related topics "are extremely salient right now, which would potentially heighten this effect."

Jim Moore, a Pacific University government professor who heads the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation, said voters deserve to know McGee's explanation. And yet "any explanations he has in the current climate are not going to be believed by a lot of people," the professor added.

McGee, in interviews, amplified his earlier testimony, claiming the two were a couple for eight to 12 months or longer before Patrice Hardy broke up with him.

"I want to own what I did," he said. "I want to own the fact that I made a mistake. But I also want to own the fact that we did have a relationship, and I was not a stalker harassing someone."

Hardy's sister, Anorvia, says Patrice Hardy told the truth in court, adding that McGee "is embarrassed or trying to keep it hidden."

McGee noted that the incident has not come up before. The Franklin High graduate ran for the Portland Public Schools board at the age of 19. The following year, he founded the Black Parent Initiative with a mission of helping parents and promoting children's health and development. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - McGee, shown at 19, when he ran unsuccessfully for the board of Portland Public Schools.

He has been an activist in education, maternal health, and other issues. He's now married with two children.

He says his only mistake was in trying to get "closure" with Hardy.

"As a black man in America and this community I have done ... a lot of work to try to never be criminalized ... and to be almost perfect," he added. "I just hope that I get to be human, and that I get to make that mistake, learn from that mistake, and that mistake doesn't get to dictate the rest of my life."

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