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Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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PA Democratic Party chair steps down at behest of Gov. Wolf

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 2, 2018 6:37 PM
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Governor Tom Wolf's staff told Marcel Groen that Wolf wanted him to leave his position as party chair because of his response to sexual harassment allegations in the legislature and related matters. (Photo by AP)

 

(Harrisburg) -- The chairman of Pennsylvania's Democratic Party has resigned.

Marcel Groen announced his departure today, citing criticism from the Wolf administration about how he has handled allegations of sexual assault against democrats in the legislature.

Democratic party leaders have largely condemned members who have been accused of harassment in recent months

But Groen's responses have been mixed.

At one point he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that responding to alleged inappropriate behavior by state Senator Daylin Leach was "for the people to decide--not for me."

Groen has also gotten flak for failing to roll out a sexual harassment policy in the party in a timely manner. That conflict started in 2016, when a delegate to the Democratic National Convention said she'd been sexually assaulted by another delegate.

In his resignation letter, Groen said Governor Tom Wolf's staff "informed me that he no longer wants me to serve as Chairman of the Party."

Groen maintained he hasn't done anything wrong, but that he is complying so as not to be "a distraction to a Party that has to rectify gerrymandered maps and elect strong and civically responsible candidates throughout Pennsylvania."

The Wolf administration directed requests for comment to Wolf's reelection campaign, which also declined to respond.

In a statement, the state Democratic Party executive director thanked Groen for his service.

Groen became party chairman in 2015.

He had previously spent 21 years as chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.

 

Groen's full statement can be read below:

I accept full responsibility for comments attributed to me in an article printed several days ago in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Will Bunch.  Some of my comments were taken out of context and some were inaccurate. They were certainly in artful and in hindsight were not offered with the level of clarity I would have liked.

I have been involved in Democratic politics for 47 years.  I am proud of my record in helping build a party and political infrastructure, first in Montgomery County, and for the last two and a half years throughout the Commonwealth.  I have met with wonderful Democratic Committee members, elected officials and activists in every county of the state, I am proud of helping women run, win and serve in government.  I am especially proud that I was instrumental in helping four women win seats on our Appellate Court this year, including the first African American woman to serve on the Superior Court.  On both the County and State levels, I have always sought to foster a party that is inclusive and tolerant.  I am proud of our accomplishments as a party and community.

I have always believed that the Commonwealth's Chief Executive should have final say on whom the Chairman of the Party should be.  The Governor's staff informed me that he no longer wants me to serve as Chairman of the Party.  While I have done no wrong and disagree with the Governor's assessment, I do not wish to be a distraction to a Party that has to rectify gerrymandered maps and elect strong and civically responsible candidates throughout Pennsylvania.  As such, I will honor his request and will immediately resign my position as Party Chair.

I came to this Country by boat, when I was only ten years old.  I spoke no English and was raised by parents who endured the Holocaust, and continued to suffer from the effects of tyranny and hate the remainder of their lives.  That formed my convictions and my values.  I have always believed in the strength of our country and the values of our institutions to fight that hate and instead work to our best inclinations.  In this time of division, I feel more strongly than ever that united fronts will serve our greater good in the legislative and social battles to come.  I look forward to assisting our many fine candidates and public servants in the weeks, months, and years to come.

I am honored to have served as Chairman of the Democratic Party and thank the State Committee members, elected officials and many others with whom I have come in contact.  I wish all of you success not only this year, but in the years to come.

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