The Deschutes County Democratic Party plans to discuss replacing Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie as a nominee for the state House in the wake of allegations that he groped a Bend nonprofit employee five years ago.

The county party initially supported Boddie in the wake of unspecified allegations that he had routinely behaved and spoken in a sexist way, used a homophobic slur and promoted the illegal consumption of alcohol. Those allegations caused the House Democratic Party’s political action committee and groups including the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and AFL-CIO Oregon to drop their endorsements of Boddie, who’s running in a key race that could give Democrats the supermajority needed to pass new taxes without Republican support.

But after Moey Newbold, who works with Central Oregon LandWatch, told OPB that Boddie slipped his hand under her pants and underwear in December 2012 while they were talking at a bar, the county Democratic Party announced Friday that it will hold a public meeting discussing whether to remove Boddie as the party’s nominee.

“No woman should have to endure what Boddie did in that bar,” the county party said. “No woman should have to speak out publicly for the abuser to face accountability. We are saddened to learn of this horrible behavior and incredibly disappointed in the way this situation was handled.”

His replacement would be chosen at a nominating convention by precinct committee people — at least one male and one female Democrat from each voting precinct in the district. Many were elected during the May 15 primary election, and the county party can appoint members to vacant spots.

Democrats are using the nominating convention to replace two Portland-area nominees who dropped out of their races after the May primary.

At the time of the incident Newbold described, Boddie was a 40-year-old physician still two years from running for the Bend City Council. Newbold was 23.

In a statement Newbold posted to her Facebook page and shared with The Bulletin, she said she has tried her best to move past the incident but felt that she needed to share her story because of the Boddie campaign’s “insensitive, hurtful and lie-filled response” to news that statewide organizations withdrew their support for his campaign.

Boddie repeatedly called the allegations fabricated and insinuated that FuturePAC, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, dropped its endorsement because he didn’t pay for opposition research.

Newbold said she doesn’t know about the allegations that caused FuturePAC to withdraw support from the Boddie campaign. However, she said she chose to share her story because she was concerned for the initial accusers.

“I know how incredibly difficult it is to choose to put yourself in this uncomfortable and horrific spotlight, and it sickens me that those people are being pressured to come forward publicly and/or intimidated into silence,” Newbold said. “I understand that many people have wanted to know more details before deciding for themselves whether to withdraw their own support for someone who has been a progressive champion on many issues. The last thing I would ever want to do is to fracture our local progressive community, but unfortunately the person who many of us thought was our advocate has already done that.”

Boddie did not return a phone call, text message or email Friday.

As late as Friday morning, the Deschutes County Democratic Party was supporting Boddie. It responded with a passionate tweetstorm to an explanation of the Democratic Party’s process to replace candidates who drop out.

“This process only applies when there is a vacancy,” the tweets read. “@BoddieForBend is sticking with it and we’re with him all the way. Our PCPs would have to first vote to remove and they see no credible reason to do so. We’re excited to support Nathan Boddie!”

The party went on to criticize Portland-based FuturePAC: “It’s clear that FuturePAC wanted a more compliant candidate and thought it would be easy to smear him out of the race. We know better. FuturePAC could know that too if they spent any time over here.”

Indivisible Bend is immediately withdrawing its endorsement and calling on Boddie to withdraw from the race, organizer Nancy Boever said. “The work of Indivisible is to hold our elected officials accountable to the highest standards,” group leaders said in a statement. “Any form of sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable. This behavior is a violation of our trust in an elected official and member of the medical community.”

The statement urged the City Council to “take appropriate action.”

Bend Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said she was shocked by what Newbold described. She and other councilors know Newbold, whose work with the Bend-based environmental watchdog nonprofit Central Oregon LandWatch means she often works with the city or speaks at council meetings.

Russell said she’s talked some with City Attorney Mary Winters and Mayor Casey Roats about what the City Council can and should do regarding the Boddie allegations.

Roats, who was traveling and unable to speak Friday evening, said via text message that he expected the City Council would hear from Boddie during its next meeting on July 18.

“That allegation comes from a person well-known in our community,” Roats said.

The city’s rules only allow a public reprimand. Councilors can investigate the actions of any councilor and discuss in a closed executive session or an open hearing whether that councilor violated council rules, local ordinances, the city charter or state law.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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