State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said state Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, made her feel uncomfortable and degraded during orientation for new senators at the Senate office building in Lansing shortly after the election in November 2018.
As first reported by Crain's Detroit Business, McMorrow said she approached Lucido to introduce herself, when he shook her hand while using his other hand to hold her lower back, grazing her "upper rear" with his fingers.
Lucido asked where she was from and whom she ran against, and McMorrow said she was from Royal Oak and defeated Republican Sen. Marty Knollenberg.
"At that moment, still holding his hand on my low back, he looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows and said, 'I can see why,' " McMorrow said in a statement released Tuesday.
Michigan lawmaker to female reporter: High school boys could 'have a lot of fun' with you
McMorrow said, "In that moment, my heart sank," and she "felt clenched and small." She said she felt she had been reduced to a "piece of meat," and the implication was that she won her hard-fought election campaign because of her appearance.
"I categorically deny this allegation which I believe is completely untrue and politically motivated," Lucido said Tuesday morning in a text message to the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Investigation launched into Lucido's conduct with reporter
The state Senate launched a sexual harassment investigation into Lucido's conduct Jan. 15 after the Michigan Advance reported an exchange Jan. 14 between him and Advance reporter Allison Donahue outside the Senate chamber.
Donahue tried to question Lucido while he was surrounded by a group of high school students from his alma mater, De La Salle Collegiate, an all-boys Catholic high school.
"You’ve heard of De La Salle, right?” the Michigan Advance quoted Lucido as asking Donahue.
When Donahue said she had not, Lucido reportedly said, “It’s an all-boys school. You should hang around – you could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.”
The students burst into laughter, the online publication reported.
Contacted by the Free Press, Lucido did not dispute the accuracy of the quotations but said he felt they had been taken out of context and out of proportion.
Later that day, he said he was misquoted.
McMorrow hopes story will show Lucido's behavior isn't 'misunderstood'
McMorrow said she told her husband about the incident but did not go further, partly because she felt the incident was "relatively minor" on the sexual harassment spectrum and to complain could limit her effectiveness as a new state senator.
McMorrow said she decided to speak up and file a complaint because of the incident involving Lucido and Donahue. She said that she felt guilt about what Donahue experienced and that if she had spoken up sooner, the incident might not have happened.
"As a sitting senator, I know my story will carry weight," she said. "I hope it will show that Sen. Lucido's behavior is not a one-off, misunderstood occurrence with reporter Allison Donahue but a pattern of behavior intended to demean women at the workplace and abuse a position of power."
McMorrow said it is time to "stop excusing behavior that's done intentionally to belittle and minimize others."
Responding to Lucido's comment that her complaint could be politically motivated, McMorrow said "there is no calculus" where this is a benefit to her in a district long held by Republicans.
"This is a risk ... but if I can make this a better place to work, I will sleep better at night," she said. "Am I concerned about retribution? Of course. I mean, I spent a lot of time over the weekend talking to people about this, and it very well may be the end of my career, but honestly, if that's the case, I'll go back to what I was doing before."
Follow reporter Paul Egan on Twitter @paulegan4.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Peter Lucido: Harassment allegation filed by Sen. Mallory McMorrow