SPRINGFIELD — Incumbent state Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) faces increasing calls for him to resign and drop out of the race after the office of the House Republican Organization released findings from an independent investigation into harassment allegations first lodged over Labor Day weekend.
An announcement Thursday from the office of House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and first call for resignation was released through Durkin spokesperson Eleni Demertzis.
The statement reads:
“Over Labor Day weekend, the House Republican Organization was made aware of allegations into Rep. Long’s behavior. We immediately brought in a third party firm to investigate these allegations, and upon completion of their report on September 12, a decision was made to withdraw support of Rep. Long’s campaign, restrict access to all caucus resources and recommend he step down from his position. At the request of the complainant for privacy, there is no other information we can release at this time. The House Republican caucus and organization has a zero tolerance policy on harassment of any kind.”
Long subsequently countered with his own statement:
“The statement by Leader Durkin stated that they do not stand any kind of harassment. Because of the nature of this high pace/high pressure nature of this campaign, I can be demanding. This is not a sexual harassment of any kind, but merely a difference of opinion on the lack of support by the Republican Party that goes back several months. At this time I have no intention on pulling out of the race because this just proves that I’m not a part of the “Good Ole Boys “ club.”
That led the complainant to release a statement Friday morning through Demertzis:
“Representative Long’s denial of his actions and behavior are troubling and disappointing.
“While there was an incident of physical harassment, the verbal abuse and abuse of power on a daily basis resulted in a hostile work environment that put anyone around him at risk.
“It is my sincere hope that Rep. Long resigns from his position and gets the help that he needs.”
Long said Friday the complainant was employed by the HRO in his campaign office which is listed as 1818 Carr St., Streator.
Long said Friday he plans to run a grassroots campaign and that his district office in Streator is still open to assist residents of his district.
Long is seeking a second term in a hard-fought battle with union representative and Ottawa Democrat Lance Yednock. His campaign committee has received more than $1.6 million from the HRO, $471,000 from the Illinois Republican Party and $41,000 from Durkin according to the Illinois Sunshine website. The Long campaign committee had just over $163,000 in cash-on-hand at the time the news broke Thursday while Yednock had more than $378,000 available.
Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, said the state organization will also pull support from Long’s campaign.
“We support their decision,” he said. “They’ve done their investigation.”
Campaign flyers and ads that were authorized prior to the results of the investigation will continue for a short while, but after that, Long will have to fund any further literature.
Dani Brzozowski, La Salle County Democratic Party chair, said they began circulating petitions calling for his resignation Thursday night. She expects petitions also will be circulated throughout Long’s 76th District.
“I appreciate that the Republicans stepped up and immediately took steps,” she said. “If he resigns — which certainly he should — the GOP will appoint someone.”
Or, Long could conceivably win a second term but would not have any support from his Republican colleagues.
“That would be a disaster for the seat,” she said. “It makes the 76th District look terrible that they would support this.”
The allegations and withdrawal of support come well past the late August deadline for removing names from the November ballot.