Government & Politics

Kansas Democrat accused of sexual harassment endorses candidate in U.S. House race

Deciding to run for Congress was an 'intensely personal decision'

Andrea Ramsey, a Leawood Democrat, decided to run for Congress after joining neighbors at a protest outside U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder's Overland Park office the day Yoder cast a key vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
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Andrea Ramsey, a Leawood Democrat, decided to run for Congress after joining neighbors at a protest outside U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder's Overland Park office the day Yoder cast a key vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Democrat Andrea Ramsey has endorsed one of her former competitors three days after withdrawing from a congressional race in the face of sexual harassment allegations.

Ramsey, a Johnson County attorney, dropped out of the race for Kansas’ 3rd district less than 24 hours after an interview with The Star about a 12-year-old lawsuit against her former employer, LabOne, in which a male subordinate alleged that Ramsey had retaliated against him after he rebuffed her sexual advances.

Ramsey has denied the allegations.

Prior to her decision to drop out, Ramsey had raised the most money out of all of the Democrats vying to compete with Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Overland Park next year. Her withdrawal dramatically reshuffles the race in the suburban Kansas City district that Democrats are targeting in 2018.

Brent Welder, an attorney from Bonner Springs who worked on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, announced that Ramsey had endorsed his candidacy Monday.

Welder appeared unconcerned by the allegations against Ramsey in a campaign news release, which did not directly mention the reason for her withdrawal.

“With Andrea Ramsey’s support, we move forward unified as Democrats and stronger than ever in our fight to defeat Kevin Yoder and solve the pressing problems of healthcare and wealth inequality,” Welder said.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the case told The Star that LabOne had settled the case out of court.

In her statement announcing her withdrawal Friday, Ramsey blasted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s main campaign arm for congressional campaigns, for not backing her candidacy in the wake of a series of sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the worlds of politics, media and entertainment.

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented 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,” Ramsey said. “We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”

The DCCC did not comment on the specific allegations against Ramsey, but said that candidates must be held to a higher standard and that anyone guilty of sexual harassment should not hold public office.

Ramsey said in a statement Monday that during their time on the campaign trail she saw Welder “fight every day to provide a voice for the voiceless.”

“I am confident that he will continue to fight for the things that caused me to run — building an economy that works for everyone, fixing our broken healthcare system, and standing up for women’s rights,” she said.

Welder is a relatively recent transplant to Kansas, moving to the state in April from Missouri. He announced his congressional run three months later.

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who has been rumored as a possible presidential candidate in 2020, announced his support of Welder on Twitter shortly after Ramsey’s endorsement became public.

Welder and the other remaining Democratic candidates will appear at a debate hosted by the Johnson County Young Democrats 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa.

Ramsey had raised the most money among the Democratic candidates prior to her exit, but both Welder and Johnscon County teacher Tom Niermann had raised more than $100,000, according their October campaign finance filings. Niermann’s campaign did not comment directly about Ramsey when asked about the former candidate’s decision to back Welder.

“As a teacher for more than 26 years, Tom knows that our leaders must have integrity and is focused on running a campaign that earns the trust of Kansans and sets the highest example for our kids,” said Niermann spokesman Zach Helder.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3