SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon House Republican leader who abruptly stepped down last month says he did so in part because of concerns that the public would find out that he and a handful of other GOP lawmakers had visited a topless bar.
Rep. Kevin Cameron of Salem initially said he was giving up his role as the No. 2 Republican in the House due to personal reasons. The Oregonian reported Thursday that Cameron and six other Republicans visited a bar featuring topless dancers during a three-day trip to Palm Springs, Calif., in January.
No public or campaign money was spent on the trip.
"I am not proud personally about what I did at that point in time," Cameron told The Oregonian this week.
House Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna of Roseburg also acknowledged that he went to the topless bar and said it was a mistake.
Several of the legislators told The Oregonian that the whole thing is personal and nobody's business.
The revelation comes as the GOP is trying to get past troubling headlines regarding another Republican legislator, Rep. Matt Wingard of Wilsonville. Willamette Week reported in June that a former staffer had accused Wingard of giving her alcohol before she was 21 and pressuring her to have a sexual relationship.
Wingard has denied giving her alcohol and said the relationship was entirely consensual, but he announced under pressure that he would take his name off the November ballot.
Cameron, the No. 2 Republican, had been notified of the allegations in May, several weeks before they became public. He said he was roundly criticized for taking too long to act and for not doing enough, and he said others criticized him for overreacting to the allegations.
"I made a phone call to Matt and said, 'If you don't step back from your candidacy, then I will have to publicly call for your resignation,'" Cameron said. "That did not go over well."
After Wingard dropped his re-election bid, Cameron said, he heard talk in GOP circles that Wingard might go public about the lawmakers' Palm Springs vacation.
"Matt never had any discussion with me directly about that," Cameron said. "There were rumors that he would do that."
Cameron said he gave up his post because pressures on his family and business coupled with the Wingard situation and the threat that someone would go public about the topless bar became too stressful. Cameron has retained his seat in the House and is running for re-election.
Wingard declined to comment. He wouldn't say whether he was in Palm Springs, but others on the trip told The Oregonian he was there.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press