State Rep. Graham Hunt of Orting said in a statement Tuesday he was resigning immediately from the House “with a heavy heart.”
State Rep. Graham Hunt has resigned over accusations he exaggerated his military record and lied about serving in the Marines and being wounded in combat.
In a statement posted Tuesday evening to his campaign website, Hunt, R-Orting, said “with a heavy heart” he was stepping down immediately, citing “substantial media attention” devoted to “inconsistencies in the records of my military service.”
The resignation came after Hunt met with Republican leaders Tuesday afternoon amid mounting allegations against him.
House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen had said last week Hunt needed to clear up his record or resign. In a statement Tuesday, Kristiansen said he supported Hunt’s decision to step down, adding state House Republicans “have high ethical standards and hold each other accountable.”
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The Seattle Times first reported last month that military records did not back up Hunt’s claims of serving as a “combat veteran” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he’d listed three medals on his official biography that the Air Reserve Personnel Center had no record of him receiving.
The Times also reported on a doctored photo posted on Hunt’s Facebook page in 2014 that falsely claimed to depict Hunt after a mortar attack in 2005.
“I surely have not forgotten that moment,” the post written in Hunt’s name said. In fact, the photo showed two U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2003. Hunt has blamed the Facebook post on a campaign volunteer he has refused to name.
Since then, former Hunt allies and others have come forward with additional accusations.
Last week, Josh Penner, who had served with Hunt on the Orting City Council, issued an open letter saying Hunt had lied repeatedly in telling him and others that he was a Marine veteran.
And Monday, Steven Nielson, a former legislative candidate and head of the state Libertarian Party, publicized a private social-media message to him from 2014 in which Hunt claimed to have been shot in Iraq and stabbed in Afghanistan.
In his statement Tuesday, Hunt said he had “much to improve upon in communicating more clearly” but maintained he had “nothing to conceal” and had never “deliberately conducted myself in a manner that compromises my integrity or the integrity of this office.”
Still, Hunt wrote he had decided to resign because the “speculation of impropriety” had taken a toll and left him unable to remain an effective legislator for his constituents.
Hunt has represented the 2nd Legislative District of South Pierce and Thurston counties since being appointed to fill a vacancy in 2014.
He had been Washington state chairman for the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but told the News Tribune of Tacoma last week he’d stepped down from that role after recent news reports to avoid being a distraction.
Kristiansen said in his statement he didn’t want people to forget Hunt had served in the military and had advocated for veterans’ issues during his time as a state representative.
Military records show Hunt served in the Arizona Air National Guard from 1998 to 2005. He deployed on active duty for part of that time, including a stint performing security checks at a U.S. Air Force base in Saudi Arabia.
But Hunt has been unable to produce records substantiating his claims of being in combat or deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan.
In his statement, Hunt apologized to “all those who have been affected by this situation.” He added: “I hope the people of this state can forgive me for my imperfections, just as I have forgiven those who have attacked me for my imperfections.”