A week after the Anchorage Daily News published a report with seven women who said Rep. Dean Westlake made inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances during his time in the legislature, the Kiana Democrat has announced his resignation from the Legislature.
Westlake was initially defiant to calls by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, other legislators and party leadership to resign, but allegations against the first-term Democrat continued to mount throughout the week with KTUU publishing additional allegations from prior to Westlake’s election.
In a prepared statement, Westlake said his decision to resign was because “as recent allegations of my behavior have superseded discussions about my constituents, my ability to serve them has been diminished. The conversation about my behavior has been elevated above the needs of my district, and that is not why I ran for office.”
The allegations against Westlake didn’t start with the ADN’s reporting, but the paper’s additional effort to delve into the issue proved it was a problem that leadership couldn’t ignore. After calls to resign were ignored, the House requested an investigation into Westlake’s behavior with the outcome and potential penalties unclear.
The move speaks to the power of thorough reporting and its ability to hold those in power accountable for their actions, but more importantly it speaks to the bravery of the women to come forward and publicly share their experiences in an environment that has long threatened retribution against those who speak out.
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, was one of the few legislators to personally call for Westlake’s resignation last week. Today, she tweeted that Westlake’s resignation was “the right thing.”
“This was the right thing for his constituents and the people of Alaska,” she said. “We need leadership that recognizes the dignity of all. The people of northern Alaska will now begin the process of choosing a new representative to be sworn in within 30 days.”
Party officials from House District 40 will need to get together and nominate candidates to replace Westlake. Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, will pick from among those candidates within 30 days of Westlake’s official departure from the Legislature.