Kevin Ranker (right, with megaphone) has resigned from the Washington state senate.

US: Anti-salmon farming senator quits over sexual harassment claims

A politician who set the ball rolling towards the decision to phase out Atlantic salmon farming in the US state of Washington has resigned as a state senator following accusations of sexual harassment.

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Democrat Kevin Ranker sponsored a Bill to phase out the net pen farming of non-native fish – which in effect meant Atlantic salmon. Although the Bill ran out of time before the end of the legislative session, similar legislation proposed by other Washington politicians was passed.

According to a report in the Seattle Times, Ranker sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee’s office late Friday saying he was resigning “with a heavy heart”.

State employee

Ranker had reportedly been under investigation since the autumn following allegations by a state employee, Ann Larson, who was his legislative assistant for a year.

In claims dating from 2010, Larson has said she had a brief consensual relationship with Ranker before he was elected to the Legislature, but that after he recruited her to the Senate and she rebuffed advances that included inappropriate touching, he became increasingly hostile. She ultimately decided to leave the job.

Hostile encounters

According to the Seattle Times, Larson, now director of government relations at the state’s Department of Enterprise Services, has said she also was subjected to hostile encounters involving Ranker once she left to work as a legislative liaison for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. She told the Seattle Times that Ranker continued to make advances, threatened to cut the department’s budget, looked up her salary and told her she was overpaid, examined which state authorisations allowed her job in the first place and threatened to cut programs important to her.

In an email to his constituents and others on Saturday, Ranker wrote that he has fully cooperated with the investigation.

“I am deeply sorry for any stress I caused her (Larson) and I sincerely apologise,” he wrote. “I wish her peace.”