Facing abuse charges, Woodburn says he’s staying in state Senate race

  • Sen. Jeff Woodburn (center) walks to the Secretary of State’s office to file for re-election on June 14. Woodburn is seeking re-election despite facing assault charges. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 9/15/2018 3:38:11 PM

State senator Jeff Woodburn plans to keep up his re-election campaign despite a string of domestic violence charges and a pending trial, he said Thursday.

In his first extended public comments, the Whitefield Democrat told reporters Thursday that he would put his faith in voters in the district – “people who know me best” – to re-elect him to a fourth term in the Senate.

“I’m going my own direction,” he said. “The people who have given me this job are the only people who can take it away. And I trust them.”

The comments came a day after the vice chairman of the Coos County Democratic party resigned from his post, citing disgust with the party and arguing it did not go far enough in supporting Woodburn’s primary opponent.

Woodburn was arrested by Concord police Aug. 2 and charged with nine misdemeanors relating to sexual assault for behavior the Attorney General’s office spanned back a year with an “intimate partner.” The office says Woodburn, 53, bit, struck and threw objects at the woman, in sporadic incidents spanning from August 2017 to June 2018.

Since his arrest, top New Hampshire Democrats, including the state party chairman, Ray Buckley, and eight of his nine Senate Democratic colleagues have denounced Woodburn’s alleged behavior and called for him to resign.

The senator refrained from publicly campaigning and stepped down from his role as Senate minority leader shortly after his arrest. But he has declined to resign completely or withdraw from his re-election race.

And since winning the Democratic primary against write-in candidate Kathleen Kelley – earning 68 percent of the vote – Woodburn has resumed making public statements.

On election night Tuesday, he thanked his voters in a Facebook post, writing that “the people have spoken” and that he was “grateful and humbled by their overwhelming support.”

And on Thursday, he stood on the Senate floor to speak for a veto override for a key biomass bill that he had championed before his arrest.

“I rise in support of overriding and I also rise with a great sense of gratitude and humility to be here to represent the great, fair people of the North Country of Senate District 1,” he said, appearing to reference his primary win.

In an interview Thursday, Woodburn said he had refrained from campaigning “to be respectful to everybody in this process.”

“I’m working hard to clear my name, and also to represent my constituents,” he said. “... This is a small community. People know each other, we live with each other. It’s important to be respectful, and give the process the dignity it deserves.”

Woodburn’s trial will likely be held in December, he said. He indicated he would continue to serve through his trial if re-elected.

Despite condemnations from state Democrats, the senator won his primary by a comfortable margin – 2,354 votes to Kelley’s 1,014 votes. But not all District 1 Democrats were happy with his candidacy.

On Wednesday, Ted Bosen, vice chairman of the Coos County Democratic Committee, announced his resignation from his post and said he intended to un-enroll from the party, arguing the party should have done more to support Kelley’s campaign.

“I cannot support the State Senate nominee while he is charged with domestic abuse,” Bosen wrote. “I cannot participate as a member of a party organization that stood by while the victim of his abuse was publicly excoriated by other Democratic officials. I cannot support the Congressional delegation that, after calling for his resignation, failed to support a well-qualified candidate, Kathleen Kelley, we recruited to replace him as a nominee.”

Bosen had previously called a special meeting of the Coos County committee Aug. 10 to discuss drafting a statement calling on Woodburn to resign – a week after the arrest. Only two out of seven members showed up, he said afterward, and no resolution was agreed to.

In a statement Wednesday after Woodburn’s primary win, state Democratic party spokeswoman Gabrielle Farrell said Buckley stands behind his stance that Woodburn should resign, but declined to comment further.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at 369-3307, edewitt@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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