State Treasurer Chip Flowers announced last week that he has dropped out of the state treasurer’s race, but will serve out the remainder of his term before relocating to Massachusetts.
“For the remainder of my term, politics is now in my past, not in my future,” said a tearful Flowers, who is a former corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
The embattled politician’s decision was surprising to some. Sources said Flowers seriously mulled resigning Aug. 14 before opting to complete his tenure. Delaware Law Weekly and other media outlets had reported that a resignation was likely.
Flowers’ announcement came after former Deputy State Treasurer Erika Benner filed a harassment complaint against him last month with Dover police. Benner had alleged in a July 6 complaint that Flowers threatened her through a series of text and phone messages sent to her after Dover’s Independence Day parade, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by Delaware Law Weekly.
Benner alleged in the complaint she had “a romantic relationship” with Flowers that ended in July 2012. She also claimed Flowers got into an argument with her son, Joseph, on July 4. After the incident, Flowers began sending Benner harassing text and phone messages, including one where he threatened “to shoot [Joseph] in the head, if it came to it.”
The Dover police are said to be investigating claims made in a second report, filed Aug. 7, in which Benner alleged Flowers continued to text and call her after she asked him to stop.
Flowers has denied the allegations. He claimed he was harassed by Benner and her son. Flowers said Joseph attacked his car and called him a racially offensive name.
On Aug. 15, Flowers, with his fiancée, Megan Lallier, standing next to him, called Benner’s allegations “lies.”
“All of you know that these lies are going to follow me in Delaware after reelection,” he said. “If I seek to achieve higher office, they will still follow me and, in effect, my family life would be horrible, always having to look over my shoulder to see who’s lying about me and always coming before this podium. I don’t want to live like that.”
Flowers also defended his actions after the Independence Day parade.
“My actions on July 4 were strong, based upon the actions and threats by her son to me and my fiancée,” Flowers said at the news conference. “Having a 6-foot-4 16-year-old come up to my car window, bang it, stick his middle finger at the people inside and say … ‘I’m going to F you up’ is serious and dangerous.”
During the 16-minute speech, Flowers maintained that he has not been contacted by Dover police and was not aware of Benner’s July 6 report.
Flowers admitted that he attended a 2011 New England Patriots game with Benner, with tickets she had charged on a state government credit card. However, he denied knowing the tickets were purchased with state funds. Flowers claimed Benner told him they were her father’s season tickets.
Benner had lost her job with the treasurer’s office for making personal purchases with a state government credit card.
“The complete story was told to federal authorities with an offer by me, which still stands to this day, to take a polygraph test, commonly known as a lie detector test, that I had no knowledge of Ms. Benner’s actions,” he said.
Republican treasurer candidates Ken Simpler and Sher Valenzuela had both issued statements the day before Flowers’ announcement calling for his resignation.
“Mr. Flowers’ scandal-ridden term has concerned me for years,” Simpler said. “But these latest allegations are beyond the pale. The people of Delaware deserve to be represented by someone who respects women, not someone who mistreats and harasses them. As someone with a wife and two daughters, I know that Delaware deserves more from our leaders.”
Valenzuela called Flowers’ treatment of women “deeply offensive to all Delawareans—especially women.”
“These actions are an unconscionable stain upon the Office of the State Treasurer and to any statewide office holder,” she said in the statement. “Flowers’ conduct completely undermines his ability to command the respect necessary for leadership, and he should step aside.”
Sean Barney, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for treasurer, issued a statement after Flowers’ press conference.
“While Chip Flowers and I disagreed on several public matters, I wish him the best in the next chapter of his life,” the statement read.