Rep. Tony Cornish is second Minnesota lawmaker accused of sexual harassment

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Democratic State Senator Dan Schoen is accused of harassing several women. Now, there are allegations against another lawmaker and calls for resignations.

Erin Maye Quade, a Democrat from Apple Valley, has only been a state representative for 10 months, but already she has four stories of sexual harassment. Her sexuality, in part, appears to have made her a target as she is an out, married, lesbian. 

Fox 9 met with Maye Quade to discuss the allegations against Senator Schoen when she named another, powerful state lawmaker, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

She believes, this is just the beginning. 

“One of the worst kept secrets, this person is serial harasser and predator,” said Maye Quade. "I don't know if I want to say. I still have to work with this person. They have gavels and they control legislation."

For State Representative Maye Quade, it was her moment of truth. After some hesitation, she finally named names.

"Tony Cornish. Widely known. Worst kept secret,” said Maye Quade. “Lobbyists have stories, staffers have stories. It's widely known."

Maye Quade says her story began when she walked on to the House floor in May. She saw Cornish staring at her, she waved, then he sent a text message, beginning the following text exchange:

Cornish: "I just got an anonymous text saying I got busted for staring at you on the house floor,,,,. Haha”

Maye Quade: Oh yeah?! Ha

Maye Quade: Who busted you

Cornish: Cell #. No name

Cornish: You got bused looking??? Haha

Cornish: Must be a,guy

Maye Quade: Oh totally

Maye Quade: It why I waved

Cornish: I told him it was your fault, of course. Look too damned good. Ha

Cornish: I must be more gentlemanly when I run for Governor

Maye Quade: You can always start now!

Cornish: True!

Cornish: And, I’d never run

Cornish told Fox 9 over the phone, the text is taken out of context. That it was a joke between colleagues.

“Well you know, somebody said to me that I got busted, so I just relayed that to her as a joke,” said Cornish. “I didn’t figure that I got busted for anything but looking at somebody. There were no suggestive gestures. There was nothing said. She waved at me and I waved at her. That was it.”

"If you've got to tell people a joke’s a joke, your joke sucks,” said Maye Quade.In response to the accusation Speaker Kurt Daudt suspended Cornish's chairmanship and called the allegations "extremely troubling." 

With another lawmaker, State Senator Dan Schoen, it began before she was even elected. She was a staffer for Congressman Keith Ellison, monitoring the Jamar Clark occupation of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct, when Schoen, a Cottage Grove officer, texted her one night to discuss the matter.  

“[Schoen] said you should come over, drinks, door always open,” said Maye Quade. “Never met him, thought he was a 60-year-old dude.”

Then Schoen sent this text, apparently by accident: "I almost got her. Working on her pretty hard, but I almost got her."

"It just made my blood cold,” she said.

Another time while speaking on the House floor, she heard two representatives behind her talking.

"Too bad she is a lesbian," said one. 

“I know, what a waste. Look at that body," said the other.

Maye Quade asked that the reps be moved, but she says Speaker Kurt Daudt refused. 

Another time, she says a lawmaker told her, with other colleagues present: "Hey Maye Quade, know what we both have in common? We both like to f--- hot women."

"That's when it gets back to culture,” said Maye Quade. “We are here doing serious work. We are not supposed to be talking about my sex life."

Representative Cornish sent six pages to Fox 9 with all the text messages he has had with Representative Maye Quade. Other text messages include Cornish sending out get well wishes when she was sick, also where they talk about a colleague wearing a funny hat. 

Maye Quade says as a new lawmaker it was important to get along, especially with powerful colleagues. 

Rep. Cornish statement:

“Over the last year, I have maintained a friendly and professional relationship with Rep. Maye Quade. As with many members, we have exchanged texts, e-mails and phone calls. It came to my attention today that I offended Rep. Maye Quade in one of the text messages. This was a poor attempt at humor with a colleague and I sincerely apologize."

Speaker Daudt's full statement regarding Cornish:

"The allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. Tony Cornish are extremely troubling. I have shared the reports with the House Director of Human Resources as prescribed by our Policy against Discrimination and Harassment. In addition, I spoke with Rep. Cornish and told him that his reported actions were inappropriate and unacceptable as a member of our caucus and the Legislature. 

“After consulting with the House Republican Executive Committee, I am suspending his chairmanship and have instructed the House's non-partisan HR department to begin their complaint process."