Amanda Barge suspended her campaign for Bloomington mayor Tuesday, less than a day after the Indiana Daily Student published an article outlining sexual harassment allegations against her.
In a statement posted on her campaign’s Facebook page, the Democratic county commissioner denied the allegations made by former county contractor Brandon Drake. The page has since been deleted.
“We are all fragile and flawed human beings,” the statement read. “Although I vehemently deny engaging in sexual harassment, I recognize that my actions have caused pain to my family and others.”
The statement, posted Tuesday afternoon, said she is suspending the campaign because she does not want to “distract our community from the very important issues we face.”
The IDS sifted through hours of recorded conversation between Drake and Barge and hundreds of other instances of communication including text messages, emails, Facebook messages and a Google note in reporting the initial story.
Drake alleges Barge repeatedly expressed feelings for him and asked him to date her beginning in 2017.
Mayor John Hamilton, whom Barge was running against in the Democratic primary, released a statement Tuesday evening.
"Brandon Drake showed courage in coming forward to report a disturbing pattern of behavior that he suffered," it read. "In recent years, we have come to understand better the challenges survivors face in reporting sexual abuse. Sexual harassment and other abusive behaviors can happen to anyone."
The steering committee for the Democratic Women’s Caucus, a Monroe County group that endorsed Barge’s candidacy two weeks ago, is working to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation.
Caucus chair Carolyn VandeWiele said the group will not have an official statement until after the meeting, but it takes the allegations very seriously.
The Monroe County Democratic Party released a statement Tuesday evening.
"We are aware of the published article in Indiana Daily Student regarding Mr. Drake and Amanda Barge and we are saddened and disappointed," it read. "At the end of all of this, no one wins and there is much healing, restoration as well as meaningful conversations within our community that is needed after this."
The party said its leadership plans to meet to further discuss the matter but had no additional comment.
Indiana Public Media reported Wednesday that Barge is not planning to step down as county commissioner. Barge has not replied to multiple requests for comment from the IDS on the matter.
Under Indiana law, county officers — including county commissioners — "are liable to impeachment for any misdemeanor in office.”
It is not clear whether she committed a misdemeanor while in office.
Barge was absent from Wednesday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners. The board did not address the allegations.
In an email, county commissioner Julie Thomas wrote that the county will issue a statement regarding the allegations.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse, go here for a list of resources.
This story has been updated with statements from Mayor Hamilton and the Monroe County Democratic Party. Updates also reflect that Barge's statement on Facebook has been deleted.