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Nonprofit leader with exploratory campaign denies many claims, but says he has grown and changed.

COURTESY CHARLES MCGEE - Charles McGee, candidate for Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, says he's learned from the episode 10 years ago when he was accused of stalking.At a time when men's treatment of women has occupied the public consciousness, a 10-year-old stalking order could complicate the exploratory campaign of Multnomah County Commission candidate Charles McGee.

A longtime nonprofit leader, McGee, 32, in September set up a candidate committee for a bid to represent District 2, which includes North and Northeast Portland. While he has not formally declared he is running, he has raised $15,000.

In 2007, however, McGee was the subject of a stalking petition from a then-21-year-old woman. In her petition to the Multnomah County Circuit Court, Patrice Hardy wrote that she had repeatedly asked McGee to leave her alone over the span of 18 months, but he refused.

"I have told him over ten times that I do not like him, and I want absolutely nothing to do with him," she wrote. "He will not take no for an answer."

She added that she became alarmed on Aug. 12 of that year when McGee, who was then 22, allegedly entered her house without permission after she repeatedly told him go away. He left after she began screaming and was "preparing to defend myself," she wrote.

A judge issued a temporary stalking order on Aug. 17, 2007, barring McGee from contact with Hardy. Two weeks later Hardy filed a police report saying a friend of McGee's had called her family and made threatening statements, trying to get her to drop the stalking order. Two weeks after that, a judge dismissed McGee's arguments in court and confirmed the previous stalking order, saying McGee could not contact Hardy for three years.

Hardy is the daughter of a well-known local leader, Pastor WG Hardy, Jr. of Highland Christian Center. She and her father declined to comment for this article.

McGee, for his part, called the episode a "painful time," saying Hardy was his "first love."

"I've learned from it and grown from it," he said. "I was in my early 20s."

He noted that the petition does not accuse him of violence or sexual misconduct. He characterized as false many of Hardy's claims in the petition, but said he took responsibility for failing to leave her alone when she asked him to.

Conflicting accounts

One striking area of disagreement is that in her petition, Hardy said they two had had no relationship, that she only knew him through her sister.

McGee, however, denied that, saying the two were a couple for eight to 12 months or longer before Hardy broke up with him. Then, he added, he contacted her repeatedly so she would explain the breakup, for "closure."

"I want to own what I did," he said. "I want to own the fact that I made mistake. But I also want to own the fact that we did have a relationship, and I was not a stalker harassing someone."

McGee was on the board of her father's church, and employed Hardy's brother-in -law at his nonprofit, the Black Parent Initiative. However, McGee rejected the idea that he was in a position of power as compared to the young woman, noting her father's prominence in the community.

In her stalking petition, Hardy said she had to change her cell phone numbers three times to avoid him, to no avail.

"For the past year and a half he's been emailing me, calling, stealing my number from mutual friends, (stalking) and harassing family members of mine and still he will not leave me alone," she wrote.

She also cited a number of incidents that she said disturbed her.

She wrote that McGee flew to San Diego where she was living for a time, despite her telling him not to.

McGee, however, denied this characterization, saying the two "hung out" in the city and went to the park together. "She invited me to San Diego," he said. "Her mom made us dinner at their house."

She also said that on Aug. 13, 2007, McGee "bribed" a third party with a cell phone to talk to her and try to get her to spend 30 seconds with McGee.

The day before, she wrote, McGee walked by her house where she was washing her car, causing her to go into her house.

"I was alone and scared and he came to my door 30 minutes later," she wrote. "I asked him to leave 3 times then he opened the door and came inside. I screamed and walked toward him preparing to defend myself and he left."

McGee denied entering the house, saying he came to the door and yelled for her, then left when she asked him to.

He said he did not ask his friend to call Hardy to get her to drop the report. According to the police report, her sister told police McGee's friend made "vague threats" such as "What was she thinking?" and "Does she know we know people?" and "It can get ugly for everyone."

Political implication

McGee is running to succeed Multmonah Commissioner Loretta Smith, who is termed out. He faces two women for the county seat, Maria Garcia and Susheela Jayapal. Whoever wins will earn a yearly salary of more than $100,000 and oversee a more than $2 billion budget.

Ellen Seljan, who teaches politics and political science at Lewis & Clark College, said the documents could well have an effect on the race.

"Personal scandals have had a long-standing negative effect on votes received by candidates, averaging in the low-double digits," said Seljan, an associate professor. She added that harassment and related topics "are extremely salient right now, which would potentially heighten this effect."

Jim Moore, a Pacific University government professor, agreed, saying "in this particular day and age, this is not a good thing to start out with as a candidate."

"It's going to be really tough for him because any explanations he has in the current climate are not going to believed by a lot of people, including people who want to give him money, not to mention voters and people who want to volunteer for his campaign."

McGee: Youthful mistake

McGee said he hopes voters understand this was a long time ago. Using his Twitter account, he recently retweeted a message about sexual harassment, which said, "Fellas, it's on us."

He noted that the episode never surfaced in the past. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - McGee, shown at 19, when he ran unsuccessfully for the board of Portland Public Schools.

The Franklin High graduate ran for the Portland Public Schools board at the age of 19. The following year, he founded the Black Parent Initiative with a mission of helping parents and promoting children's health and development. He has been activist in education, maternal health, and other issues. His wife, Serilda Summers-McGee, recently took over as the city of Portland's top human resources manager, and they have two children.

"As a black man in America and this community I have done … a lot of work to try to never be criminalized… and to be almost perfect," McGee said. "I just hope that I get to be human, and that I get to make that mistake, learn from that mistake, and that mistake doesn't get to dictate the rest of my life."

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