Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

Political lobbyists denounce harassment by state senator

Light fades outside the New Mexico State Capitol on Feb. 12 in Santa Fe. (Morgan Lee/Associated Press file)

SANTA FE – A Democratic state senator is coming under new pressure to resign or be removed based on new allegations of groping, sexist comments, and yelling and cursing at women, in an open letter Monday signed by 10 political lobbyists and advocates.

The letter urges leading state senators to move forward with an investigation against Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto related to earlier allegations of sexual harassment by political lobbyist Marianna Anaya, and summarizes eight additional episodes involving alleged mistreatment of women by Ivey-Soto in varying levels of detail.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Anaya has been openly public about her allegations and previous advocacy against harassment. Anaya has accused Ivey-Soto of groping her at a hotel reception in 2015 and of recent aggressive and disrespectful behavior while discussing proposed legislation over drinks.

A preliminary investigation into probable cause is underway, Anaya’s attorney has indicated. Legislative officials say rules prohibit disclosures about complaints without a probably cause finding.

The new letter from political advocates says women contacted their groups to voice additional complaints.

Reached by telephone Monday, Ivey-Soto declined to comment on the newly summarized allegations. He has said he has no recollection of touching Anaya and that their encounters were never sexual.

“The Legislature has a process to resolve allegations of harassment and bullying. I am and I will participate in any such process,” said Ivey-Soto, chairman of a Senate committee that vets major legislative initiatives and political appointments.

One source of the new accusations is identified by name – a woman who says she was physically assaulted by Ivey-Soto when he was in graduate school at the University of New Mexico and she worked at a support association for students.

The letter says the woman, who could not immediately be reached by phone, says Ivey-Soto pressed and held her against a wall and screamed at her for disregarding a task.

The letter also says that Ivey-Soto while drinking at restaurants rubbed his hand up the inner thigh of a female lobbyist and asked another lobbyist inappropriate personal questions before inviting her to meet privately in his office. The letter also alleges that Ivey-Soto groped a female advocate at the Statehouse and yelled and cursed at female election regulators.

Heather Ferguson, a co-signer of the letter and executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said that Ivey-Soto referred to her and a female colleague by the nickname “Lips and Hips” in 2016.

“We walked into a meeting with him,” Ferguson said. “He said, ‘Here comes Lips and Hips.’”

Ferguson said she told Ivey-Soto the nickname was sexist and degrading, and that he repeated it later.

She described a “toxic culture” at the Legislature, praised Anaya’s courage for filing a formal complaint and said greater whistleblower protections are needed.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe declined to comment through a spokesman.

“Allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously and are dealt with under the governing policies, procedures and statutes,” said Chris Nordstrom, spokesman for Senate Democratic leaders.