A political newcomer who won the Democratic nomination for Illinois lieutenant governor said he has no intention of leaving the race after details emerged about his arrest for allegedly holding a knife to his former girlfriend's throat.
Scott Lee Cohen struck a defiant tone even after running mate Gov. Pat Quinn predicted he would have to leave the race. Cohen said people should wait for all facts to become known.
"There are questions, and I will provide all answers honestly and openly," he said in a statement Thursday. He did not return messages from The Associated Press.
Cohen was arrested on domestic battery charges in 2005, accused of pushing his then-girlfriend's head against a wall and of the knife incident. The police report noted abrasions on her neck and hand, but charges were dropped after she failed to appear in court.
Police records show the woman had been arrested for prostitution, the Chicago Tribune reported. Cohen said he did not know that at the time. He told WTTW-TV that he met her at a "massage therapy place" and believed she was a masseuse. Cohen denied hitting her and said their relationship was "tumultuous."
Cohen said he has asked her and his ex-wife, Debbie Cohen York, to clear the air. York sought an order of protection against Cohen in 2005 as she filed for divorce. She said his violence was fueled by anabolic steroids.
Cohen acknowledged his past steroid use but denied abusing York.
"I never touched her, I never touched any woman," he told WLS-TV late Thursday. "That's not my style, that's not me."
York stood by her allegations but said Cohen had changed.
"At the time, he was going through a different phase," she said. "He was a different person than he is now."
Cohen, a pawnbroker and owner of a cleaning supplies company, shocked the political establishment by beating four state lawmakers to nab the Democratic nomination with 26 percent of the vote. He gained strong name recognition with advertising that featured people who said they found jobs at employment fairs he organized.
Cohen stressed that he disclosed his arrest before he announced his candidacy. He said no one paid attention because he wasn't expected to win.
Illinois voters choose the nominees for governor and lieutenant governor separately, though he and Quinn now make up the Democratic ticket. Quinn said he first heard of the abuse allegations after Tuesday's election.
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