OPINION: Senator admits to 'Hips, Lips' slight, denies other allegations

Mar. 23—State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is about to turn up the heat — on his adversaries and on himself.

He says women accusing him of sexual harassment or worse behavior are using tactics similar to those of former President Donald Trump.

"The messaging by Trump was 'The election is only legitimate if I win.' The messaging here is the legislative process to investigate these complaints is only legitimate if it comes out the way they want," Ivey-Soto said Tuesday in a wide-ranging, hourlong interview.

He says lobbyists who spend countless hours at the Capitol had a hand in creating the legislative policy to investigate harassment complaints. Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, criticized his accusers for challenging the validity of the system before any inquiry had begun.

"I don't know what's going to happen in this process. It's predicated on an idea of evidence being presented and tested," he said.

Ivey-Soto rebutted a series of allegations a day after members of eight organizations called on him to resign or be removed from office by fellow senators. He is in his third term and doesn't stand for reelection until 2024.

He says he is innocent of most accusations against him and perplexed by the vagueness of other allegations. But he's admittedly guilty of aping, sophomoric behavior in one instance.

Ivey-Soto says he referred to Common Cause executives Viki Harrison and Heather Ferguson as "Lips and Hips," descriptions they called sexist and degrading.

"Matthew McConaughey used 'Lips and Hips' for rivals at an ad agency in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I guess I've watched too many movies," Ivey-Soto said of why he called the two women by those nicknames.

Still, Ivey-Soto said, his unwelcome language didn't poison his professional dealings with Harrison and Ferguson.

"The gave me their Best in Government Award [in 2015]," Ivey-Soto said. After that, they asked me to emcee a Common Cause awards ceremony."

Ivey-Soto said he never really regarded the two women as Lips and Hips.

"I wasn't trying to focus on their physical characteristics. I was repeating a stupid line from a B movie," he said.

Far more serious allegations against Ivey-Soto are that he groped and propositioned female lobbyists. He said the claims stand out mostly because they are so stark.

"I've no context for that. I don't know when it supposedly happened or who's saying it," he said.

Ivey-Soto said he didn't fondle, touch or pursue any woman against her will.

This includes one of his early accusers, lobbyist Marianna Anaya. She says Ivey-Soto sexually harassed her. He counters that she retaliated against him because of a voting rights bill she favored and he amended. It failed in this year's 30-day legislative session.

A lawyer, Ivey-Soto musters quotes that are bound to mobilize his detractors. He did it again while telling me about Anaya.

"There was no sexual advance. I've known she was a lesbian the whole time I've worked with her. I never try to get a Jehovah's Witness to vote, and I've never made a pass at a lesbian. There's just no return on investment."

He says a 28-year-old allegation made this week by Gayle Krueger also is false.

Krueger said Ivey-Soto grabbed her and screamed at her while she was an employee of the University of New Mexico's Graduate and Professional Student Association and he was president of its council.

Ivey-Soto called Krueger a problem employee who headed for a restroom each time he tried to speak with her about a deficiency.

On one occasion, "I blocked her path," Ivey-Soto said. No physical contact ever occurred, he said.

As to another complaint, Ivey-Soto says lobbyist Miranda Viscoli misrepresented what occurred in an argument they had over a firearms bill.

She wrote a column this week stating Ivey-Soto screamed and cursed at her before she was to testify on the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ivey-Soto's version is different. He said they clashed, quietly enough, after he edited the bill, changing "surrender" of guns by volatile people to the meeker word "transfer."

Ivey-Soto said he left the Judiciary Committee to present a bill before a panel in the House of Representatives.

"Miranda is following me and yapping at me. I've got to testify. I'm trying to focus on that, and I don't want her following me.

"I say, 'Miranda, if you know anything about gun people, they will never surrender their weapons. In the end, what do you care about the words 'transfer' or 'surrender' if you get the same [expletive] thing?' "

The number of confrontations Ivey-Soto has had might lend credibility to his detractors. He says he trusts the statehouse investigative process to be a search for truth that overcomes piling on.

Today's system is different from the Legislature's anti-harassment investigation in a high-profile case from 2018. This time, complainants will have to take an oath to advance their case.

Four years ago, lobbyist Laura Bonar accused then-Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, of sexually harassing her four to five years earlier.

Bonar's statements about Trujillo weren't made under oath. But a subcommittee of the House of Representatives nonetheless found probable cause on two of four allegations. Trujillo was to face a hearing on those complaints before a House panel.

Bonar would have to testify under oath at the hearing. She refused. The investigation was over, but so was Trujillo's political career.

Bonar wanted Trujillo out of office, and she succeeded. He lost in the Democratic primary a month after Bonar went public with her accusations.

Trujillo had one accuser. Ivey-Soto has many.

"I'm loud and I'm passionate, or excitable, or Cuban or whatever," Ivey-Soto said.

He's also a senator with an enemies list that seems to get longer by the day.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@

sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.