Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

The Deschutes County Democratic Party can’t bump state House candidate Nathan Boddie from the ballot in the wake of allegations that he groped a Bend environmental activist, but Democratic leaders are insisting that he drop out.

“If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, Nathan Boddie should not hold office and needs to drop out,” said Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in a tweet Saturday.

Boddie, a Bend city councilor who’s running to represent Bend in a seat now held by Republican gubernatorial nominee Knute Buehler, responded Saturday to the allegations made a day earlier by Moey ­Newbold, who told OPB Boddie slipped his hand under her pants and underwear at a bar in 2012, when she was 23 and he was a 40-year-old physician.

Boddie said in a statement he learned of the allegation Friday and he’s never been alone with Newbold. He said Newbold suffered from substance abuse problems and that he had found her intoxicated and unconscious more than once.

He also questioned Newbold’s relationship with Future­PAC, the House Democrats’ campaign committee, claiming she shares office space with some of its members.

FuturePAC withdrew support for Boddie on June 25, saying he routinely behaved and spoke in a sexist way, used a homophobic slur and promoted the illegal consumption of alcohol. FuturePAC refused to offer specific details.

Newbold stood by the allegations she made against Boddie and issued her own statement Saturday.

“Nathan Boddie’s recent statement about me is not true,” Newbold said. “It is character assassination. It’s sad that he has stooped to this level instead of taking responsibility for his actions. This type of bullying response reinforces why so many women (and men) don’t report assault and harassment.”

Newbold’s boss, Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey, said in a letter emailed to The Bulletin Saturday the alleged groping had cost Boddie a position on the environmental watchdog group’s board of directors.

Dewey said he was considering Boddie for a spot on the board several years ago, but Newbold told him she could not continue to work for LandWatch if Boddie was there. Dewey said he didn’t know or ask for details of the incident, but he told Boddie it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to join the board because Newbold had described an episode of inappropriate touching.

Boddie did not return a phone call Saturday, but his partner , Alice Finer, said she expected they would have more to say in the next couple of days.

“He will never drop out of the race,” Finer said. “It will not happen. This is an attack, and you can quote me on that.”

Newbold’s story caused the Deschutes County Democratic Party and the grassroots group Indivisible Bend to yank support from Boddie Friday evening after initially supporting him in the wake of the FuturePAC allegations. Statewide groups, including AFL-CIO Oregon and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, had earlier dropped their support of Boddie, whose victory could give legislative Democrats the supermajority needed to pass new taxes without Republican support.

The Oregon Democratic Party has a process for replacing candidates who drop out of races after their primaries, but the party can’t remove candidates after they’ve been nominated, party spokeswoman Molly Woon said Saturday.

“There is no process to remove someone once they’ve been chosen,” Woon said.

If Boddie drops out, local Democrats would hold a nominating convention to choose among other prospective candidates who have lived in the district for at least one year and have been registered Democrats for at least 180 days.

Boddie’s campaign repeatedly called the FuturePAC allegations “fabricated” and criticized the group as an out-of-town political action committee trying to meddle in Bend politics. His Saturday statement also suggested FuturePAC was involved in Newbold’s story because her employer, Central Oregon LandWatch, shares office space with local members of other groups that withdrew support from his campaign.

Boddie’s defensive response to the FuturePAC allegations led Newbold to share her own story. She said she knows nothing about the Future­PAC allegations.

His response also reinforced the Oregon League of Conservation Voters’ decision to withdraw support from his campaign.

“Rather than honestly engaging with our questions and undertaking a serious discussion about what happened, his campaign has engaged in intimidation tactics,” Doug Moore wrote in email Monday to members, saying Boddie misled supporters, claimed he was blindsided and characterizing the allegations as a Bend vs. Portland fight. “These tactics are designed to silence people and turn it into a ‘they said, we said’ or an ‘us vs. them’ type of dispute.

In addition, Boddie campaign allies have signaled their intention to attack the credibility of the people who reported this behavior.”

State Sen. Sara Gelser, who was among the “Silence Breakers” named as Time’s Person of the Year in 2017 for speaking out about sexual misconduct, called for Boddie to drop out on Friday.

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon announced Saturday that it was dropping its endorsement for Boddie and wanted him to drop out of the race, in part because of his statement about Newbold.

“We will not tolerate misuse of power by any elected official, candidate or person in a position of authority, especially health care providers,” Executive Director Grayson Dempsey said in a statement. “We trust our endorsed candidates to represent our core values of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Boddie, through his alleged behavior and subsequent shaming of the woman who was brave enough to come forward, has demonstrated clearly that he does not uphold the highest standards of conduct.”

The Bend City Council is expected to address allegations of Boddie’s behavior during its next meeting on July 18.

Mayor Casey Roats and Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said Friday they wanted to hear from him.

City rules only allow the council to publicly reprimand a member who acts inappropriately.

Since initial allegations about Boddie came out June 25, Republican Cheri Helt, a local restaurateur and member of the Bend-La Pine School Board, has announced endorsements from Democratic and non-affiliated members of the school board and reported more $62,150 in new campaign contributions.

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