National coalition calls for state senator’s removal following 2022 sexual misconduct allegations

More advocates say New Mexico lacks a transparent harassment review process

By: - August 3, 2023 4:30 am

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe in September 2022. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

Dozens of local and national advocacy organizations are once again calling for New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to be removed from office. 

People from 29 different organizations signed the letter that was released Tuesday, seeking accountability after multiple women came forward last year with sexual harassment allegations and a formal complaint against the senator.

This isn’t the first time people have asked lawmakers to remove Ivey-Soto from the Legislature. 

To date, Ivey-Soto has been removed from a legislative committee, undergone an internal independent investigation and faced public scrutiny. However, he has not faced any disciplinary measures.

Elisa Batista is the campaign director for UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization that’s one of the 29 groups that signed onto the letter. She said someone who acts like Ivey-Soto shouldn’t be in a position of power.

She said UltraViolet is circulating the letter around New Mexico, to other lawmakers and Ivey-Soto’s associations to get them to join in the pressure for his removal. One law firm that’s donated to him in the past is already planning to talk to its board of directors about this, she said.

The immediate consequence should be a leave of absence, Batista said, so people don’t have to speak in front of Ivey-Soto in legislative committees. Currently, he’s on three interim committees and two full-session committees.

“Who wants to testify before someone who groped them?” she said.

Then, she said, legislators need to consider how to create a more independent, transparent review process into harassment claims against lawmakers.

Calls for a more independent harassment review process in NM Legislature remain unmet

The state’s policymakers revised the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy in December 2022. Lobbyists said it still leaves too much power in the hands of the lawmakers themselves.

Legislators also passed a bill in the 2023 legislative session that lifts a confidentiality clause people who filed complaints used to be bound to. They failed to pass another piece of legislation that would’ve updated a conduct act public employees have to follow, specifically laying out that they can’t ask for sexual acts in exchange for votes or other official favors.

The letter released this week urges New Mexico to adopt a specific set of guidelines on how to fairly investigate sexual misconduct in political workspaces. Batista said the state has very little transparency in its investigation process, and lawmakers need to change that.

When an investigator looked into the formal complaint against Ivey-Soto in 2022, the final report was never publicly released.

A leaked version found that at least two instances of Ivey-Soto’s conduct likely violated the Legislature’s harassment policy, but the senator told Source NM last month that the leaked report didn’t show the full picture. 

Batista said the report not being publicly released results in things like this, where Ivey-Soto can use the public’s lack of knowledge in his favor.

“Now the perpetrator of the abuse can manipulate the results that nobody knows about,” she said.

She said advocates raising their voices against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo helped hold him accountable in 2021. National attention can help push action on the issue in New Mexico, too, she said.

“One way we can start eradicating sexual violence in our politics, in our political workplaces and spaces, is to go state by state,” Batista said.

Read the full letter here:

Ivey-Soto Letter

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.