A Washington Senate committee will hire a third-party investigator to look into an allegation that state senator Joe Fain raped a Seattle woman, Candace Faber, in D.C. in 2007.
The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee unanimously approved the move Thursday, over a month after Faber first accused the Auburn Republican.
“We feel that the hiring of an independent third party provides the most potential for a fair, nonpartisan and comprehensive outcome that is satisfactory to everyone involved," said Senate majority leader Sharon Nelson and minority leader Mark Schoesler in a joint statement.
The announcement comes at a time when Fain is up for re-election, as of Thursday's counts fell behind his Democratic challenger. His opponent, Mona Das, now leads the two-term incumbent by 206 votes.
Fain was first elected in 2010 and in the August primary received 53.7 percent of the votes. He said in a statement to reporters Thursday that he still strongly denies the accusation and has called for an investigation himself.
Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson said officials felt it was important that the investigation be a bipartisan decision, and that they didn't want to give the impression they were "politicizing" the accusation during the election. Faber, meanwhile, told PubliCola it's hard not to find the timing of the investigation political.
"The election became an excuse for not taking meaningful action, which only prolonged the time that I have had to wait for a response," Faber wrote by email. "The wait has been excruciating, and I hope that wait is now over, and all I can say is that I truly hope this leads to a swift and thorough investigation of Fain’s actions regardless of whether he wins or loses this race. After coming forward under the impression that it was my civic duty to do so, I feel that a thorough hearing is the very least I can ask for."
Officials initially struggled over how to approach a potential investigation, Hendrickson said, because the alleged rape occurred before Fain was a state legislator and outside of the state. Hendrickson said while Fain was a King County employee at the time, the county also didn't feel that it was under its jurisdiction to investigate.
"I think there were concerns on both sides about the timing of something like this," Hendrickson told PubliCola. "It's an unprecedented situation, so there's no roadmap here."
Senators have already started searching for an independent investigator who has experience with sexual assault cases, officials said, and hope to have the investigation completed between December 14 and December 31 in the event Fain is re-elected.
Faber publicly accused Fain on Twitter of raping her on September 27, during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Faber at the time wrote that she recognized "the importance of this story for our state’s politics and the importance of this moment in time for our national culture."
So okay, let’s do it. @senatorfain, you raped me the night I graduated from Georgetown in 2007. Then you had the audacity to ask me to support your campaign. I’ve been terrified of running into you since moving home and seeing your name everywhere.— Candace Faber (@candacefaber) September 27, 2018
I’m done being silent.
Updated 3:58pm on November 8 after more ballot counts.