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One less predator in public office? House Republicans ready to dump Matt Manweller

Republican State Representative Matt Manweller, who has been battling a series of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior for years, appears to have finally lost the confidence of his colleagues in the House Republican caucus following the publication of a report that he had a sexual relationship with a former student who had not yet turned eighteen back in the 1990s.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the story shared in the well documented piece from the NW News Network. What Matt did was wrong,” said top House Republican J.T. Wilcox in a statement released to the press.

“Our Leadership team has asked Matt to resign from his position as state representative. Our entire caucus will discuss this issue early next week.”

Previously, Wilcox had declined the opportunity to sever ties with Manweller, saying in a statement issued only a few weeks ago, “Matt was elected to his position as state representative. Voters decide who represents them.”

That’s true enough, but real leadership involves leading people to new positions, not falling back on statements like “Voters decide who represent them”.

As the top Republican in the state House, Wilcox holds the title of Republican Leader. He has a duty and obligation not only to his caucus but to the people of Washington State to take action when one of his members is accused of wrongdoing, as Manweller has been. It’s unfortunate that it has taken so long for Wilcox and his leadership team to conclude that Manweller should resign.

The House Republicans have known for a long time about the allegations against Manweller, but have chosen not to act. Manweller’s ex-wife OraLynn Reeve went on the record late last year about her relationship, saying: “My truth, my story, is that I had a man that’s twelve years older than me, as a teacher in a position of power, take advantage of me, groom me to be a trophy wife and prey on my insecurities.”

Should Manweller step down, a successor could be appointed within a few weeks who would then assume his duties. However, that individual would only serve out the remainder of Manweller’s current term, which is almost over. Manweller’s name will still be on the November ballot because Wilcox and his caucus didn’t recruit another Republican to run for the position back when they had the chance.

Manweller was recently fired from Central Washington University after the university concluded that he had a pattern of inappropriate behavior. Manweller is now suing the university for wrongful termination and is seeking a $2 million payout.

In the meantime, he’s campaigning for reelection. Last month, he received 63% of the vote in the Top Two election. He’ll face Democratic challenger Sylvia Hammond again in the general election, for which some ballots have already been mailed.

Manweller was first elected to the Washington State House in 2012. He represents the heavily Republican 13th District, which includes Ellensburg, and was part of the Republican leadership team until he took leave from his duties in response to the escalating allegations against him. Democrats have been calling on Manweller to step down for a long time, but Republicans have resisted joining in… until today.

As an elected official, Manweller has made a name for himself vociferously opposing legislation crafted to improve the lives of working people.

His diatribes against equal pay for equal work and higher wages have been dubbed exercises in manwellersplaining, a play on mansplaining.

Manweller’s history of disturbing behavior extends beyond propositioning young women. In 2010, he got into a brawl in the parking lot of KXLE AM 1240 after sarcastically suggesting former Kittitas Mayor Fred Huber  confront him outside the station following a taping of his program, “The Right Opinion”. Manweller had previously insulted Huber’s wife on-air and then sparred with Fred when he called in. Manweller suffered a broken hand and an ear bite from the fight.

In our view, Matt Manweller doesn’t belong in the Washington State House of Representatives or any position of public responsibility. It’s very disappointing that the Republican Party has protected him for so long. We hope those days are finally coming to an end. Washingtonians deserve better.