(TOPEKA, Kan.) — A female congressional candidate dropped out of the Kansas race Friday over a 12-year-old lawsuit accusing her of sexually harassing a male subordinate, an unusual case of a woman facing the sort of misconduct allegations that have forced numerous men out of their jobs in recent weeks.
Andrea Ramsey announced in a Facebook post she was ending her campaign, calling allegations that she harassed her former employee and then retaliated against him “a lie.” The employee, Gary Funkhouser, filed the lawsuit against OneLab Inc., the Kansas City-area company where Ramsey worked as a vice president. The two parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after settlement talks.
Ramsey was seeking the Democratic nomination in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, hoping to win the right to challenge four-term incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder next year. The district contains a mix of affluent, GOP-leaning suburbs and poorer, heavily Democratic city neighborhoods. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried it in last year’s presidential election.
The Kansas City Star first reported about the lawsuit and said Ramsey dropped out after it asked her about the case.
Ramsey said “real change” has come in handling harassment complaints and timely and thorough investigations are “a very good thing.” But, in her own case, she said, “These false allegations are disgraceful and demean the moment this country is in.”
“On balance, it is far more important for me that women are stepping forward to tell their stories and confront their harassers than it is to continue our campaign,” she said.
Funkhouser filed the federal lawsuit in October 2005, four months after he was fired as a human resources manager at OneLab. Ramsey, then known as Andrea Thomas, was the company’s executive vice president for human resources, a position she left in April 2006 for another job.
Funkhouser said he rebuffed sexual advances from Ramsey and, after he did, she shunned him, moved his office, criticized his work and then fired him in June 2005. The company denied those allegations, and Ramsey was not named as a defendant.
In her Facebook post, Ramsey said she “eliminated an employee’s position,” calling Funkhouser “vindictive.”
Court records show that Funkhouser and the company agreed that the case should be dismissed in July 2006 but provide no details. There was no answer at a home telephone listing for Funkhouser in the Kansas City area, and one of his lawyers declined to comment.
Ramsey, also an attorney, said because she was not a defendant in the case, she did not participate in its resolution and would have “fought to exonerate my name and my reputation.”
She was among five Democratic candidates but the only woman actively campaigning. Online finance records show she raised almost $319,000 in contributions through September and loaned her campaign $125,000.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not endorsed a candidate. But Ramsey said in her Facebook posting that the 2005 lawsuit was enough for the committee not to support her.
“We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process,” Ramsey said.
In an email, Meredith Kelly, the DCCC’s communications director, said members of Congress and candidates “must all be held to the highest standard.”
“If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office,” Kelly said.