I haven't paid much attention to the Congressional races around here, mostly because I live in Sheila Jackson Lee's district, which means for me there is no race. Over in the 25th CD, which is an open seat due to Ken Bentsen's decision to run for Senate, things are getting ugly. Republican candidate Tom Reiser is running an ad which alleges that his opponent, former City Councilman Chris Bell, sexually harassed a woman who was on Mayor Lee Brown's staff. Bell has called this allegation a lie, and he's got quite a bit of support for his defense, including the woman who he supposedly harassed:
The allegation of sexual harassment dates to a debate at Houston City Hall in the summer of 2001, when Bell was a council member and [Carol] Alvarado worked for Mayor Lee Brown.
At the time, the council was considering a proposal to prevent city employees from running for political office. The Bell-supported proposal was aimed at Alvarado, who then was running for the council seat she won last fall.
Shortly after a private meeting with Bell, then-Councilman Rob Todd said Bell made a "sexual comment" regarding Alvarado. The Houston Press later quoted Todd as saying that Bell had said, "You make sure to tell (Alvarado) how well you argued on her side when she is repaying the favor tonight."
Bell denied making any comment that could have been construed that way.
Bell and Todd were frequent combatants when they served on the council. Todd could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Reiser spokesman Dugan said the allegation in the commercial is backed up in a letter written Aug. 8, 2001 by Brown ally Cindy Clifford and three other women demanding an apology from Bell.
"Clearly, the four who wrote the letter were offended by the comment as I would be, as the women of Mr. Reiser's staff would be," Dugan said.
Clifford, who supports Bell, said she "barely remembers" the letter in which she wrote, "It's remarks such as these that make life more difficult for all women in the workplace."
"But I have always felt that Chris was very, very interested in women's issues," Clifford said. "He's obviously worked out the issues with Carol."
Alvarado said she never believed Todd's allegation, and she called on voters to "Please call Tom Reiser and ask him to stop lying."
George Biggs, a former aide to Todd who now works for Alvarado, and City Councilwoman Annise Parker were among the supporters who appeared with Bell Wednesday.
Both said they don't believe Bell made any sexually suggestive comments to Todd about Alvarado.