State Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto stepped down from his position as the chair of a powerful Senate committee amid a scandal involving alleged sexual harassment.
The Albuquerque Democrat chaired the Senate Rules Committee, which holds hearings for confirmations and is the first stop for proposed constitutional amendments, but announced he would leave the position in a letter to Senate leadership. Ivey-Soto will remain in his position as state senator. His term runs through the end of 2024.
Ivey-Soto was accused of sexual harassment by a progressive lobbyist earlier this year, followed by similarly allegations from more women. The allegations went to a legislative committee that investigates ethics complaints.
“At this moment, continuing in leadership positions has become a distraction that has overshadowed the work of meeting the needs of the people who elected me,” he wrote in the letter to Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. “I am also concerned about the impact this has on the Senate as an institution, where historically we have worked to resolve that [sic] major issues facing our state.”
“The State Senate and the people of New Mexico are at their best when we work together to achieve the many goals ahead of us,” Stewart said in a statement. “Legislators, legislative staff, our constituents, advocates, and members of the public all play an integral part of this process.”
The letter came hours before the Senate Committee’s Committee was scheduled to meet to discuss removing Ivey-Soto from the chair of Senate Rules. Previously, Stewart announced that Ivey-Soto would no longer serve as the chair of an interim legislative committee, which meets between legislative sessions.
And on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement, “Senator Ivey-Soto has done the right thing. Now we move forward, continuing the important policy work voters sent us here to do. When we work together we can accomplish much for our state.”
A coalition of groups have called for Ivey-Soto to step down from the Senate and reiterated the call on Thursday in a blunt statement.
“Good. Daniel Ivey-Soto saw the writing on the wall,” Jessie Damazyn said on behalf of the coalition. “His colleagues were about to strip away his chairmanship, and he stepped down in order to save face. But that’s not enough. He doesn’t belong in elected office, period. The Senate should expel him.”
Earlier this month, Ivey-Soto said he was cleared and would face no discipline. But that was not the end of the story.
A report by the Santa Fe Reporter found that a letter said there was probable cause to believe that the senator violated the legislature’s anti-harassment policy.
Ivey-Soto said that Stewart threatened to release the report unless he stepped down from the committee and said he reported this to the FBI. Stewart denied the allegation.
Last week, the Democratic caucus chose Stewart as their choice for President Pro Tem again. The full chamber votes on the position, though the Democrats have a majority of the chamber.