Brandon Hood, a 9th Congressional District Democratic candidate, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by a campaign volunteer. Following the accusations, Hood’s campaign manager and a prominent organizer for the campaign stepped down Tuesday and asked him publicly to withdraw from the race.
Sarah Conley, the volunteer who accused Hood, said he groped her around 1 a.m. Monday at Hood's house, which is also the official campaign headquarters, and threw a chair when witnesses intervened, according to a public post on her Facebook page.
“I'm speaking out because I want to protect others,” Conley said in the post. “It took one person to get others to speak up.”
Hood, a Democrat, is running in a crowded congressional primary, with five Democrats and one Republican vying for the 10-county seat. Some of his main platforms are ending the war on drugs, Medicare for All and raising teachers’ wages, according to his campaign website.
Conley, Hood, campaign organizer Alex Goodlad and campaign manager Glitz Litzenberg had been at Hood’s house to come up with plans to promote the campaign, creating hashtags and plans for a social media push, Conley said. She was taking notes throughout the meeting and later rewriting them so they were organized.
Conley said she was afraid of Hood possibly getting violent when she rejected his romantic offers, so she told him she wasn’t interested in dating anyone right now, wanting to let him down gently.
“Forget about this right now,” Conley said Hood allegedly told her while taking a notebook out of her hands and continuing to harass her.
Hood did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Conley said she also reported the incident to Bloomington Police Department, who told her proving the case would be hard, even with two witnesses. She said she was told the best charge the police could lay on him was battery.
Conley spoke with Bloomington Police Department, but no charges have been brought against Hood yet.
Conley said others accused Hood of harassment after seeing her post. She said she understands they’re doing it in support but she’s afraid it’ll open up speculation into what happened to her. She said she’s also torn because she wished these people had shared their stories before and didn’t bring up things irrelevant to her harassment.
“If he ends up in a position of power, he won’t get better, he’ll only get worse,”Conley said.
Goodlad said he witnessed Hood harassing Conley. Hood flirted with her and tried to touch her at the end of the night and asked Conley for sex multiple times. Litzenberg intervened when Hood kept trying to touch Conley despite her saying no multiple times.
Goodlad formally resigned from the campaign via a Facebook post Tuesday, saying he couldn’t support someone who doesn’t understand basic human dignity.
“There has to be accountability,” he said in the Facebook post.
Litzenberg, who said he witnessed the incident with Conley, also resigned from his position, saying he couldn’t support a candidate who would sexually harass someone. Addressing Hood directly in the post, Litzenberg said the candidate should try to improve himself.
Litzenberg, who lived with Hood during the campaign, said Hood continually tried to goad him into fighting him during the argument after Hood allegedly groped Conley. Litzenberg said he also felt guilty that he didn’t call out Hood earlier after noticing warning signs of abusive behavior and manipulation during the campaign such as a culture of objectification and a lack of boundaries.
After the accusation began circulating social media, Hood’s personal Facebook profile was deleted. His campaign page, however, is still up.
Conley said if anything comes out of this, she hopes people know they can ask for help. Even if they aren’t sure who to turn to, someone will always be there to point them in the right direction.
“Every problem and issue I’ve faced in my life is because I didn’t know how and I didn’t know who to ask for help,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated who intervened between Sarah Conley and Brandon Hood. The IDS regrets this error.