Domestic Abuse and Assault Charges Tarnish New Hampshire Democrat's Career

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New Hampshire’s Senate minority leader, Democrat Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield, is facing bipartisan calls to resign after he was charged with a series of domestic violence incidents Thursday by the state’s Attorney General’s office.

Even as both Republican and Democratic officials remained united in their condemnation of the allegations against Woodburn, questions arose over the Democratic Party’s issuance of a statement about Woodburn even before the charges were revealed, a move described by the state Republican chairman as a “preemptive leak.”

Woodburn, 53, faces nine misdemeanor charges. The victim is an “intimate partner,” according to a release from Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. The charges allege a series of violent actions dating back for a year.

The charges include four counts of simple assault, two counts of domestic violence, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of criminal trespass.

In the earliest incident, from Aug. 10, 2017, Woodburn is alleged to have thrown a cup of water in the victim’s face, throwing the cup at her and striking her in the face afterwards. He is also alleged to have kicked the door of her dryer, “causing it to be broken away from the dryer housing.”

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On Dec. 15, 2017, Woodburn is alleged to have bitten the victim on the left hand, resulting in bruising.

On Dec. 24, 2017, the charges say Woodburn struck the victim in the stomach with his hand, and kicked the locked door of the victim’s home, damaging the door and the casing.

Finally, on June 9 or 10 of this year, Woodburn is accused of biting the victim on the right forearm, causing bruising.

Woodburn is to be arraigned Aug. 20 in Lancaster.

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In a brief written statement Thursday, Woodburn gave no indication that he intended to resign.

“This afternoon, I learned that a warrant had been issued for my arrest,” Woodburn said. “I voluntarily responded to the police station, cooperated with law enforcement during the booking process and was released. I intend to fully address and defend against these charges in court.”

But Woodburn, who has served in the state Senate since 2013, received no notable support from his own party. In a statement released several minutes before the charges were announced, Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley demanded that he step down.

“We take these accusations against Sen. Jeff Woodburn very seriously and stand with his accuser and support her during this unimaginably painful time,” Buckley said. “We are asking Senator Woodburn to resign from office immediately.”

Buckley’s statement was echoed by a joint release from Woodburn’s Democratic colleagues in the state Senate, with the exception of Sen. Lou D’Allesandro.

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“The allegations against Senator Woodburn are serious and cannot be tolerated anywhere across our country – especially not in the New Hampshire State Senate,” their statement read. “Senator Woodburn is entitled to full due process, but we jointly call on him to resign effective immediately.”

The state Republican Party Chairman, Wayne MacDonald, expressed concern for the alleged victim but also questioned the Democratic Party’s apparent desire to get ahead of the story.

“These events, and the preemptive leaks by Democratic officials, also raise serious questions about the entire Democratic Party,” MacDonald wrote in a statement. “How did the Democratic Party know about these charges before the Attorney General’s announcement? How long did Democrats cover these events up? Every Democrat now needs to answer this question: what did you know and when did you know it? All of these questions must be thoroughly investigated.”

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and Senate President Chuck Morse were also quick to seek Woodburn’s resignation.

“With the disturbing nature of these charges and the staggering number of them, it is clear Jeff Woodburn can no longer serve the public,” Morse said in a statement. “Jeff Woodburn must resign from the state Senate.”

“This morally reprehensible, violent behavior has no place in public service, or anywhere else,” Sununu said. “Domestic violence will not be tolerated in New Hampshire. Senator Woodburn must resign. Immediately.”

Sununu’s potential opponents in the fall election, Democrats Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand, also insisted that Woodburn needed to step down.

“Jeff Woodburn’s alleged behavior and abuse is unacceptable and beyond disturbing,” Marchand said. “I stand with the woman involved and all victims of domestic violence. I call on Jeff Woodburn to resign as Minority Leader and as a member of the State Senate immediately.”

“I am deeply troubled by Senator Woodburn’s actions,” Kelly said. “Domestic violence is unacceptable, period. He must resign from the Senate immediately.”

According to Woodburn’s Senate biography, he has five children and a degree in history from Franklin Pierce University. News media reports indicate that he is divorced and cited no longer available Twitter posts indicating that he had gotten engaged in November. Woodburn has deactivated his social media accounts.

A version of this article previously appeared on the New Hampshire Watchdog website under the headline, “Domestic violence, assault charges against NH Democratic senator lead to bipartisan calls for his resignation.

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