In the immediate aftermath of revelations that Rep. Elizabeth Esty kept her chief of staff on the payroll for three months after another former aide made allegations of harassment against him, the Connecticut Democrat insisted she would not resign.
“For those who have asked, I want to be clear that I am not resigning,” Esty said in the statement to CNN last week. “I have important work to do in Congress including building on the lessons of this horrible series of events.”
On Monday afternoon, Esty reversed course – announcing her retirement via Facebook.
“Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace,” she wrote. “In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better.”
Esty’s decision not to seek reelection comes on the same day that she took two steps clearly aimed at stopping the political bleeding:
- She issued a “Dear Colleague” letter in which she asked rhetorically: “How did I not know? How did I not see it? What I do know is that wasn’t an isolated incidence on Capitol Hill and that we can and must do better to ensure a safe environment for our employees.”
- She called on the House Ethics Committee to expedite its investigation into the matter. “Although we worked with the House Employment Counsel to investigate and ultimately dismiss this employee for his outrageous behavior with a former staffer, I believe it is important for the House Ethics Committee to conduct its own inquiry into this matter,” wrote Esty.
The message in both of those actions was clear: I want to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible because I think I will be vindicated by what is found. Sure, I could have done things better (quicker?) but it was a very tough situation and I did what I thought was best at the time. I’ve got nothing to hide!
It wasn’t enough.
A series of prominent state Democrats – including former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and state Senate President Martin Looney – had called on Esty to resign over the weekend. And things didn’t get any better for her on Monday. This from Mark Davis, the chief political correspondent for local ABC affiliate WTNH,” tells that story: “Sources say Esty calling Democratic Town Committee Chairs in 5th district seeking support and it’s not going well.”
Conversations with plugged-in operatives in the Nutmeg State in advance of Esty’s announcement Monday afternoon suggested the writing was on the wall.
“She’s not a person that has a lot of people in the state looking to save her from this embarrassment, which makes surviving much harder,” said one Democratic consultant who works in the state and was granted anonymity to candidly assess Esty’s political future. “I don’t know if she makes it but it doesn’t feel good and I have no idea why they didn’t just fire the guy.”
That was the question Esty simply never could answer to anyone’s satisfaction. And it’s the reason she won’t be returning to Congress in 2019.