Top Pa. Senate Democratic campaign staffer steps down after sexual harassment allegation

By: - November 15, 2019 7:05 am

The Pennsylvania Capitol building (Capital-Star photo).

The top political operative for Pennsylvania Senate Democrats has resigned his position after he was suspended for allegations of sexual harassment while working for a previous employer. 

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star this week that David Marshall, the executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, stepped down in late October.

“[Marshall] has moved on, we’re moving on,” Hughes, the committee’s chairman, said.

As head of the Senate Democrats’ re-election wing, Marshall was responsible for raising funds, recruiting candidates and directing campaigns to elect Democratic state senators to the General Assembly. 

Marshall was suspended from his duties pending the outcome of an investigation in September, after a woman named Miranda Cohen levied sexual harassment accusations against him in a piece she wrote and posted to Medium, an online blogging website. Marshall denied the allegations at the time.

Pa. Senate Democrats’ top campaign staffer suspended in the wake of sexual harassment complaint

Cohen wrote that Marshall subjected her to “comments” and “touching” before Marshall “locked me in his office and wouldn’t let me leave until I kissed him.” 

While not named in Cohen’s post, the Capital-Star had been conducting an investigation into the allegations after becoming independently aware of them in March 2019. 

The incident happened in 2011 when Marshall was Cohen’s superior at a canvassing job for Grassroots Campaigns in Philadelphia.

According to his LinkedIn page, Marshall worked at Grassroots Campaigns from January through May 2011.

Grassroots Campaigns is “a progressive organization that specializes in running face-to-face campaigns for political parties, candidates, and advocacy groups,” according to its website.

Grassroots Campaigns did not reply to a request for comment.

At the time, Cohen filed a formal workplace complaint against Marshall. The complaint, a copy of which Cohen showed the Capital-Star dated to May 2011, mirrors the allegation she made in her post on Medium.

SDCC counsel Adam Bonin confirmed the investigation focused on Marshall’s time at Grassroots Campaigns. 

The SDCC investigation was completed by Philadelphia attorney Patricia Pierce. According to Bonin, the conclusion — which he did not disclose — was communicated to an attorney for Marshall over the phone on Oct. 28. Marshall resigned the next day.

Talking to the Capital-Star this week, Marshall said he had not reviewed the report, and declined to comment on his resignation outside of confirming he did leave his position at the SDCC. His attorney did not reply to a request for comment.

Marshall was hired as executive director of the SDCC in 2017.

In an email to the Capital-Star, Cohen said the SDCC had shared the results of investigation with her, and that her story was “corroborated by many other individuals.”

“The SDCC informed me that they will be more diligent in their hiring process and in how they address sexual harassment in the future. This is the outcome that I feel is most significant — that they will change their policies to reflect the critical information that was unearthed through my article,” Cohen added.

Bonin confirmed that he talked to Cohen and shared the conclusions of the report, but did not elaborate on the details of their conversation.

“I am grateful that I was listened to, in the end, and believed. I am grateful that these changes go beyond David Marshall, and hopeful that the SDCC can set an example in how to respond to and prevent sexual harassment,” Cohen wrote.

*This story was updated at 6:27 p.m. Nov. 19 to reflect what Adam Bonin told Miranda Cohen.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.