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Hours after saying he would continue his campaign to become Democratic Party chairman despite allegations that he had sexually harassed several women, Rob Miller ended his bid and announced he would leave the party altogether.
Miller reported Thursday evening that he had followed through with that pledge, which he made in a 1:40 a.m. Facebook post.
"I always believed in 'innocent until proven guilty,' " Miller said. "There's a loud, strong faction of the party that doesn't believe in that, that [is] putting identity politics ahead of truth, justice and the American way."
Accusations made by seven women in a May 25 letter to the party's executive committee were "a very well-planned-out conspiracy," Miller said, though he conceded that he's "not perfect."
"I may have said to somebody, 'You look sexy,' but I probably didn't mean it in a malicious or " Miller broke off, before continuing: "I could see somebody that had low self-esteem who asked 'How do I look?' and I said 'Well, you look sexy.' "
Without consent, the women wrote, Miller kissed, grabbed, touched and made inappropriate comments to women, and he twice pulled down his pants to show his Mormon undergarments when he was active in the religion.
The lone allegation Miller doesn't dispute is that he invited a woman to a professional coffee meeting and later asked her out, though he takes issue with details of her account.
Attorney Dan Spencer said on behalf of the seven women who signed the letter that Miller's departure from the race was welcome news to his clients.
"They weren't originally signing up to have this be a big public spectacle, and so having it resolved in this way, I think, is a relief for all concerned," he said.
Spencer said he's aware of three other women who made confidential reports to the party's judiciary committee about Miller's actions. His clients hoped the party would complete its review of the allegations, he said.
Miller said he doesn't know what was discussed in a closed-door meeting of the party's judiciary committee on Wednesday and that he's unsure whether that body has power over him now that he identifies as unaffiliated. Party Chairman Peter Corroon didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Miller had previously characterized the accusations as dirty politics that he implied were orchestrated by supporters of Nadia Bowman a rival candidate for the party leadership, who has denied involvement.
Bowman said Thursday that she was caught off guard by Miller's announcement and said she hopes the committee will at least issue a public statement about its findings.
"I think it's bigger than the Democratic Party," she said. "I think it speaks to this culture that we live in, where every woman has had at least one experience where they've felt harassed or uncomfortable or unsafe and been hesitant to come forward because of backlash."
Before Thursday's Facebook post, Miller had vowed to stay in the race despite acknowledging that the allegations and unrelated criticisms might make it difficult for him to serve as chairman.
At a party forum Wednesday even as up to half the audience stood and turned its back to him when he spoke Miller said he would stick around to make his five-minute candidate speech at the June 17 Democratic state convention.
Miller said a Facebook post from a friend involved with the party led him to reconsider later that night.
"I thought, you know, regardless of how I may feel personally about the attack on my character and everything else, that it was just time to do it, to pull the plug, [and] hopefully, somehow, that the party will be salvaged and be able to move forward," he said.
He wrote in his own early morning Facebook post that he had appreciated those attending the forum, where he had asked that protesters be allowed to remain after moderator Scott Howell threatened to have them removed for blocking other attendees' views.
"I heard your voice, and I stood up for your voice, twice," he wrote. "Not a bad way to also say goodbye."
Miller said those who "truly know me" have reacted by offering their support and expressing disappointment that he didn't stay in the race. He had been viewed as a front-runner after serving as the party's vice chairman and treasurer.
The timing of the allegations, he said, should arouse suspicion.
"Why wait? Was sexual misconduct any less important when I was the treasurer? Was it any less important when I was the vice chair? Why now?"
A "whisper campaign" that preceded the May 25 letter had alleged other serious acts of sexual misconduct, he said, but he was nonetheless surprised to see so many signatures.
Miller declined in his Facebook post to endorse another candidate, writing, "There are three qualified women running and I like the men too."
The field includes four women. Miller didn't say which woman he omitted, but he allowed that "there's one specific one that I hope does not win this election because the majority of her supporters and the people who planned this, as much as she cries that she wasn't involved, she was."
The new chairman or chairwoman will be selected at the state convention. The remaining candidates are Bowman, Leonardo Gutierrez, Neil Hansen, Ed Schwartz, Sarah Scott, Daisy Thomas, Julianne Waters and Archie Williams.