Assembly Dem leaders and the party’s state chair late Friday night called on Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, to resign following allegations by two women that he kissed them without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015.
The Capital Times reported neither woman, who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity, filed complaints against Zepnick, but the incidents have stayed with them in the years that followed. The paper reported their accounts were corroborated by friends and co-workers.
Zepnick, a recovering alcoholic, said in a statement he will not resign.
He said he has no recollection of the alleged incidents, though “there is never an excuse for inappropriate behavior.” He said he has “confronted and apologized for many mistakes I made during my years of irresponsible drinking,” takes the claims seriously and apologizes to the women.
“My life is back on track and I’ve been sober for over two years,” Zepnick said. “I will not be resigning and I will continue to work hard on behalf of my constituents.”
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said in a statement the chamber’s Dem leaders take the allegations seriously.
“While we acknowledge Josh has taken steps to to deal with his abuse of alcohol his past actions should not be minimized,” the statement said. “Accordingly, it is our hope that Representative Zepnick will take the appropriate action and resign.”
One of the women who spoke with the Capital Times was identified as a former legislative staffer, while the other previously worked for the state Dem Party.
State Dem Chair Martha Laning called on Zepnick to resign “immediately.”
“As Democrats we lead with our values. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstance in our party,” she said. “We are disturbed by the incidents that we learned about this afternoon involving Rep. Josh Zepnick’s behavior at two statewide events in 2011 and 2015, directed at an employee of our Democratic Party of Wisconsin and a legislative staff member.”
Zepnick, whose sister was killed by a drunk driver and cited her death in arguing for a crack down on those operating under the influence, was arrested for drunk driving in 2015. He was challenged in a Dem primary last year, but won with 53.1 percent of the vote, a margin of 149 votes.
The 49-year-old was first elected to the Assembly in 2002.