9th District congressional candidate accused of sexual misconduct

By Mary Claire Molloy – Special to The Bloomingtonian

The Congressional campaign of Democrat Brandon W. Hood suffered a blow Tuesday after a volunteer publicly accused him of groping and sexually harassing her. Two staffers, including his campaign manager, resigned in protest and called for him to end his campaign. 

Hood, 38, is a first-time candidate and one of five Democrats competing in the June 2 primary election to challenge incumbent Republican Trey Hollingsworth for Indiana’s 9th district seat. Tuesday was the first day of early voting. 

Volunteer Sarah Conley said she turned down Hood when he asked her out on Saturday. During a campaign meeting Sunday night, she said, he put his arm around her and whispered in her ear, saying he wanted to cuddle and that the coronavirus pandemic had deprived him of human contact. She said he groped her backside and threw a chair when confronted by staffers about his actions.

“I couldn’t have one meeting without Brandon sexually harassing me, groping me, the outbursts,” Conley told the Bloomingtonian. “I honestly didn’t know if he would get violent. I said, ‘Why can’t I just work? Let me just do what I came here to do.’”

Conley filed a report with Bloomington Police on Tuesday afternoon. The report said that the case was marked unfounded because “there was nothing reported by the woman that met statutory requirements for charges related to a sexual assault.” 

Staffer Alex Goodlad said he saw Hood touch Conley’s backside and throw the chair. Campaign manager Glitz Litzenberg said he did not personally witness this incident, but saw Hood put his arm around Conley and touch her back and shoulders earlier that night. 

“I told him his campaign was over,” Litzenberg said. “It’s a complete hypocrisy of everything I believe in to keep working for him.” 

Litzenberg said he almost got into a physical altercation with Hood after the incident.

“He got aggressive towards me, trying to provoke me into attacking him,” Litzenberg said. “I wasn’t having it.”

Hood, a residential remodeling contractor who lives in Bloomington, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. He has pleaded guilty to public intoxication twice in the past year and is on active probation, according to court records.

Conley, who is recently out of work due to coronavirus, joined his campaign because she believed in his message of fighting for the working class. She said after Hood groped her, she said to him, “What is this campaign about?” 

“I don’t want to be anonymous because…if he does end up in a position of power, somebody’s going to be extorted and abused even more than I was,” Conley said. 

Litzenberg referenced Hood’s problems with anger in a post calling for him to end his campaign. 

“I really regret not setting firm boundaries and pushing Brandon Wesley Hood to be the best person he can be when I saw early warning signs of abusive behavior,” Litzenberg wrote on Facebook. 

Primary opponent D. Liam Dorris called for Hood to withdraw from the race on Facebook, writing that “sexual harassment is a predatory behavior unacceptable on every level.” 

“If substantiated, these actions are disqualifying and do not reflect the values of Democrats, Hoosiers, or our nation,” Dorris wrote. 

Indiana’s 9th district encompasses several counties in south-central Indiana, from just south of Indianapolis to the Kentucky border.

This is a breaking news story. The Bloomingtonian will update it as more information is available.

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