The blogosphere - or the Republican neighborhoods in it, anyway - is abuzz with news of a "sex scandal" involving Democratic state senator and state treasurer candidate Ben Westlund and a former State Capitol aide.
Well, it's not completely news: The fact that Westlund made unwelcome sexual advances toward Debbie Boone, now a state legislator from Cannon Beach, back in 1997 came out two years ago. But this week somebody leaked to The Associated Press a copy of a confidential letter in which Boone said Westlund went further than giving her an "unwanted hug," as she said publicly in 2006.
According to the letter, Westlund - then a freshman Republican House member - touched Boone on the hip, grabbed her leg and put his hand under her skirt and rubbed her leg on three separate occasions in 1997.
The gang over on the NW Republican blog were getting their jollies from the story.
"Not sounding good for the current Democrat poster boy who wants to oversee the investment decisions of the state of Oregon," chortled "Coyote." "Because you would think that the party of Anita Hill will jump all over Ben Westlund for his history of unwanted sexual advancements against women. (Please hear the sarcasm dripping thick.)"
We hear it, Coyote, we hear it.
The Bulletin (subscription only) - which made the story the top item on its front page today - reported that Boone said "she was stunned that the letter somehow ended up in the hands of the press. The letter and Westlund's apology were filed with the House clerk, and copies were provided to the Democratic leader and the Republican leader, and all were supposed to remain sealed, she said."
No charges were ever filed, Westlund offered a written apology and the matter was settled amicably, according to both Westlund and Boone - who, in fact, has endorsed Westlund in his state treasurer bid.
"I had to document what I was concerned about, and I was guaranteed this would never come out," Boone was quoted as saying in The Bulletin. "There was a confidentiality agreement. Ben and I have settled our issue, it's a non-issue, but somebody [is] trying to make it an issue again."
Westlund campaign spokeswoman Stacey Dycus told The Oregonian that the recycled story is just an election-year smear.
"This is typical Republican smear tactics from political operatives feeling desperate about their Republican candidates' chances of winning statewide office," she said. "Voters are tired of their politics of personal destruction and the distraction from the real issues that the treasurer can help on: health care, education and the economy."
Why are Republicans making a big deal out of this, when the state treasurer race isn't normally something to get worked up about? The Eye can think of two possible reasons:
One, they hate Westlund for switching parties and dropping his independent gubernatorial bid in 2006 to endorse incumbent Ted Kulongoski over Republican Ron Saxton.
Two, if he wins the state treasurer's job Westlund will be considered a likely future Democratic prospect for the governorship.