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Guest opinion: Yahya Yuksel still forcing himself on CD2

Most voters in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District have never even heard of democratic candidate Yahya Yuksel; but that didn't stop him from garnering a lot of negative attention last month. Once local reporters broke the news that he had tried (unsuccessfully) to cover up a rape allegation against him before announcing his candidacy earlier this year, it didn't take long before the corresponding legal documents surfaced online.

Ironically, the public only became privy to a copy of the redacted police report from the night in question after Yuksel attached it to his formal plea asking a judge to delete his case. Citing his intent to run for office and even emphasizing how he does not want to be "susceptible to reputational harm," Yahya accidentally gave readers an inside look at the victim's firsthand story — including fairly graphic detail — of how she pushed, said "no," cried, and eventually blacked out while he was on top of her. The two were in high school at the time, and the report also includes testimony from a fellow student there on the night in question. Even though that friend attempted to cover for Yuksel, he inadvertently confirmed details that only support the rape accusation: the teenage victim was intoxicated, and she and Yuksel had intercourse on the night in question. (By law, a drunk 16-year-old cannot provide consent.)

The whole issue felt deeply disturbing to me; both as a rape survivor and an informed constituent. So I then decided to relentlessly pressure the Yuksel campaign into making a public statement. Outrage started to swell and finally, his campaign manager quietly mentioned on her personal social media accounts that Yahya would be speaking to the allegations at his campaign headquarters. Since she never bothered to announce the supposed "press conference" to the press, I announced it for them by informing local media outlets and asking the women of this district that I live in and love to show up in solidarity with me.

With little notice, Tucson did show up, united. Tucson was strong. Tucson demonstrated its power. Tucson chose to uplift women, even as the man who was asking to represent us attempted to silence his victim's #MeToo story, and literally turned his back on the heartbroken and hurting survivors that stood in front of him demanding answers. When Yuksel abruptly ended his two-minute statement and bolted for the passenger seat of a car that was already waiting curbside, a lone woman chased him down into the streets and refused to back down until he agreed to try again at addressing those still left waiting in stunned silence in his office. Upon returning, Yahya walked back into a scene that had devolved into a yelling match between his father, Edip Yuksel, and the few who could get a word in edgewise. Yahya then retreated for a second time, but was quickly confronted by local media and their cameras. After some pressure, Yuksel's campaign manager Ivanna Ferra allowed for a sole question from the press. Yuksel began to deliver a rehearsed statement utterly devoid of substance, but I quickly interrupted to ask him directly: "Please look me in the eye, right now, and tell me you deny having sex with an underage teenage girl in 2007 when she was intoxicated." After briefly fumbling around for an excuse about being a teenager and a virgin, Yuksel was pushed, by his team, back out the door again and into his getaway car.

Following this trainwreck display of blatant disregard for the concerns of potential constituents, every other candidate in the primary race along with the Pima County Democratic Party itself asked Mr. Yuksel to resign his candidacy. Every event where he was previously listed as a guest has revoked his invitation to speak. His name is now synonymous with "alleged rapist." However, he still refuses to listen to the will of those in the community. Despite my multiple attempts to speak with him and ask him a few simple questions, his only public commentary so far has been comprised of lashing out at critics on Twitter, in phone calls, and via email.

Even when everyone in this district is loudly telling him "NO," Yahya's ego rises above the outcry. Yahya Yuksel forcing himself on voters is a mistake that is eerily similar to those of his youth.

While his candidacy is now more nonviable than ever, this story should still be of great concern to the people of CD 2. Although Yahya will likely be nothing more than a footnote before primary season is over, the fact that he ever felt confident enough to pursue a position of leadership over hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are women, is indicative of the bigger problems we face in society. The #MeToo movement is barreling forward at full speed, and anyone who continues to perpetuate rape culture will be left behind, on the wrong side of history.

Listen to women, Yahya. Step down immediately.

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