NEW YORK • A woman running to flip a Kansas congressional seat from red to blue next year is ending her campaign after allegations surfaced that she sexually harassed, then fired, a former subordinate.
Ms Andrea Ramsey, 56, is a retired business executive who worked in the non-profit sector before deciding to run for office as a Democrat in next year's congressional mid-term elections. She was one of a growing number of women inspired to seek office in the wake of President Donald Trump's election.
But this month, The Kansas City Star paper asked her about a 2005 lawsuit that accused her of sexually harassing a man at LabOne, where she was executive vice-president of human resources, and then firing him after he rejected her advances. Ms Ramsey denies the claim.
The suit was against the company, not Ms Ramsey specifically, and it was settled in 2006.
"Twelve years ago, I eliminated an employee's position," Ms Ramsey said in a letter posted on Facebook on Friday. "That man decided to bring a lawsuit against the company (not against me). He named me in the allegations, claiming I fired him because he refused to have sex with me. That is a lie."
Ms Ramsey is the rare - perhaps the only - woman in public life to face consequences from a sexual harassment accusation in the weeks since journalistic exposes spawned the #MeToo movement.
She said her political opponents were using the false allegations against her, and she criticised the Democratic Party for implementing a "zero-tolerance standard".
"For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee's false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign," she said.
DCCC communications director Meredith Kelly said in a statement: "If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office."
Ms Ramsey was one of several Democrats running to contest the House seat held by Representative Kevin Yoder in the mid-term elections. She has never held public office, but said she was emboldened to try when Mr Yoder voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.