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Rob Miller a candidate for Utah Democratic Party chairman who was accused of sexual harassment by seven women said Monday that the allegations would make it nearly impossible for him to serve if elected.
Still, he's not withdrawing from the race for now and said he will fight to clear his name not so much in hopes of winning, but to protect relationships with his family, friends and supporters.
It came as two more party activists men this time say they witnessed boorish behavior by Miller, and people on both sides of the controversy complain of bitter attacks by the other.
"I don't know that I could be chairman effectively due to these allegations," Miller said Monday.
For example, he said, he would always need someone with him as a witness to protect against any further allegations of sexual misconduct.
"It would be hard to function," he said.
Even if he won, he said, opponents are upset for other reasons and would keep pelting him with accusations. "I was a strong [party] vice chair, and fought a lot of battles. They are going to be on my heels. I believe it doesn't go away once I get elected, that they will just keep trying to tear it down, and tear it down."
He added, "I don't know how I could be an effective chair without completely cutting them out of the party, and that's not what a chair is supposed to do."
Also, Miller said, "People have said if I quit this race, it makes me look guilty. But I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't."
So he plans to defend himself at a party judiciary committee meeting scheduled Wednesday to look into the allegations, and may stay on the ballot to talk to state convention delegates June 17.
"I'm trying to consider my children, my partner, and my friends and hopefully come out of this where I can still support my family," he said. He works as a property manager and, ironically, as a consultant helping people with crisis communications.
Last week, The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a letter to party leaders from seven women saying they witnessed several instances of sexual misconduct, including that Miller hugged and kissed women without consent, stroked their hair without permission, pulled down his pants to show Mormon undergarments (when he was active LDS) and turned a supposed job interview into a request to date him instead.
The letter was signed by Mary Brady-Bishop (former Salt Lake County Democratic chairwoman); Celina Milner (former Utah Senate candidate); Elizabeth Converse (communications director for Utah House Democrats); national delegates Sheryl Ginsberg and Ellen Brady; Jennifer Miller-Smith (self-described party supervolunteer); and Jill Haring (a Republican married to a Democratic blogger).
Miller denies the allegations and said "there is no sexual harassment." He called it a last-minute political smear against him by women who want to elect a female party boss. Nine people are running for the post, including four women.
Miller, as a former party vice chairman and treasurer, had been seen as a front-runner.
Over the weekend, two male Democratic activists joined the seven women to say they also witnessed inappropriate behavior by Miller.
One was Curtis Haring, husband of letter-signer Jill Haring, who wrote a long post about it on his Utah Political Capitol website. He also complained about the verbal fire aimed at his wife and the other letter-signers.
Curtis Haring wrote that not long after he was married, he witnessed Miller asking his wife "for his wedding kiss and lowering his hand down Jill's backside." He walked up to ask what was happening, only to have Miller quickly exit and his wife inform him of what happened.
Miller denies any such behavior, providing numerous Facebook posts and messages between Jill Haring and him through the years showing they had a friendly relationship including some where she offered to arrange dates for him with some of her friends after his divorce.
Still, Curtis Haring said the incident put his wife "in the same mental mindset as the night she was raped [by two men years earlier] causing her to suffer from anxiety, depression and insomnia." He said she also avoided any events that Miller might attend after her encounter with him.
Haring also complained that the letter-signers have been subjected to "constant, unrelenting, cruel and vindictive" criticism from supporters of Miller alleging the women are lying or misunderstood his actions.
He said "these are serious charges made by serious women" who spoke out knowing "that they may have to go into political exile because of their actions … but they chose to speak anyway."
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, commented on Curtis Haring's post saying, "Based on my knowledge of some of the women who signed [the letter], including Jill, I believe we can't just ignore the letter as being a dirty trick or a last-minute maneuver for political gain," and supported a probe into the matter.
Meanwhile, Chris Stout former chairman of the Democratic Party Progressive Caucus and the party's 2012 nominee for state treasurer issued a news release calling for Miller to drop out of the race and said he witnessed boorish behavior by him.
"I have personally witnessed what I consider to be inappropriate behavior from Mr. Miller as recently as November 2016," he said.
In an interview, Stout said he was in a restaurant with Miller when he saw "heavily suggestive flirting" by Miller with women nearby, which he thought was inappropriate, given that Miller was living with a girlfriend.
He said he has been told of other serious misbehavior by people whom he trusts, but they will not come forward on the record. All told, he said, he believes "it would be inappropriate for him to continue as a candidate."
Miller denies doing anything improper with the women when he was with Stout. He said he has also heard a whispering campaign alleging more serious misbehavior and has complained to party leaders about it but denied wrongdoing.
Noor Ul-Hasan, a national Democratic delegate and well-known Muslim activist, also called for Miller to leave the race in a comment she added to a Facebook post by Stout: "I would hope with that many allegations that Rob Miller would step down," she wrote.