MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Luke Simons is a member of the controversial and secretive Bastiat Caucus in the North Dakota House of Representatives.
According to multiple sources, as well as public records, Simons, R-Dickinson, also has a history of abusive and disrespectful behavior.
The incident that was the last straw for many who work in the Capitol building happened earlier this week when Simons was asked by Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, a Fargo Democrat, to put on his mask.
Simons answered with "f--- off" and "you're not my f------ mother," an outburst that shocked observers.
Hanson did not respond when I sent her an inquiry about the verbal altercation.
"I'm a Christian and this is wrong language and I haven't said that word for a long, long time," Simons told me when I reached him for comment. "I've been out in the oil field and as you know everyone is kind of steaming pretty heavy. Yes, I did say that and I apologize to her for it because it's not appropriate for a Christian to say that."
Simons said he was standing in line in the Capitol cafeteria when Hanson asked him to put a mask on. When he refused, she asked him to come closer so he could see a sign indicating a mask mandate for the facility, which prompted the expletives from Simons.
"I would like it to be said that my own walk with God does not condone using that kind of language, and I don't make a custom out of using that kind of language. I lost my temper," he said.
"I'm only sorry for saying the F-word. I don't apologize for anything else," he added, saying he wasn't sure why Hanson singled him out because there were "oodles of people in there without masks."
The incident was witnessed by several other lawmakers. Those I've been in contact with who witnessed the incident so far aren't willing to go on the record about what they saw.
"I will not comment on an active investigation/situation," Rep. Todd Porter, a Republican from Mandan, told me when I requested comment.
Several lawmakers have told me off the record that they're pushing legislative leaders to censure and possibly expel Simons from the House. "If we don't do something about this guy he's going to do something crazier and we'll regret it," one Bismarck-area Republican told me.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert said he was aware of the incident in the cafeteria.
"I had a meeting with Rep. Simons and told him he needed to apologize to those ladies for his language, and that he gets excited pretty fast, and that he needs to control that more," he told me. "He did have a good discussion with the two ladies involved and he did apologize. That doesn't condone the behavior of what he was doing."
The incident with Hanson is far from the first example of Simons acting erratically and abusively.
During the 2019 session, Simons made a floor speech apologizing to Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) for suggesting that his name was a "curse word" in his district.
Simons described this to me as a "joke" in the context of a debate over time zones, and that he only apologized because Kasper took offense.
Sen. Erin Oban, a Bismarck Democrat, told me she once called Simons at home during the 2018 legislative interim to have a conversation about posts he'd made on Facebook suggesting she has the "blood of dead babies" on her hands. During the conversation, Simons referred to her as "Mrs. Oban" and refused to use her title of senator.
"I have no idea if I did that or not, but if I did it wasn't because it was anything offensive," Simons told me.
Multiple sources in the Legislature told me that the Legislative Council, the Legislature's lawyers and staff, has a file of incidents involving Simons and that he's restricted from working with some council staff, specifically women.
When I reached out to Legislative Council Director John Bjornson, he answered "yes and yes" to my questions.
I have filed an open records request for the incident file.
Simons confirmed to me one incident involving a female member of the council. He said he was having a conversation about a "starving horse" situation and was describing the foraging habits of different types of horses. When the woman he was speaking with indicated that she didn't understand, he made a comment about her being a "good-looking city girl."
"I guess that was sexual harassment," Simons told me. Asked if he is restricted from working with this woman, Simons said "yes."
"Supposedly I can talk to them, but I choose not to," he told me, adding that he had considered filing suit over the issue because the incident wasn't supposed to be disclosed to the public.
"I was aware of that. I told him that was very inappropriate," Pollert told me when I asked him about this incident.
"I know of no formal complaints, but we've had to have discussions about the way he talks to folks. And yes, we've had to tell him not to speak to certain folks," he continued.
"The legislative session has a lot of different personalities," Pollert continued. "Luke can be one of those folks who can be a little aggressive about his philosophical and political beliefs. He can go a little overboard sometimes."
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.