One of Cain’s accusers from nearby suburb

Marshall Cohen

One of the five women accusing Republican primary candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment lives in Glenview, Ill. – less than 30 minutes away from the Northwestern campus in Evanston.

Sharon Bialek, 50, went public Monday at a press conference in New York City, alleging an incident occurred in 1997 when Cain was CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

“He suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals,” Bialek said. “He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch.”

Bialek has since returned to her suburban Chicago home and stood by her statements in interviews with reporters who have camped out near her house.

Cain has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual harassment and categorically denied ever knowing the Glenview accuser.

“When I first saw this lady … I sat there trying to recall who she was and if I knew her,” Cain said at a press conference Tuesday in Arizona. “And I am honestly telling you I can’t even recall knowing her back then.”

Political analyst Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a former NU professor, said Cain and his campaign team botched their response to the scandal.

“Cain’s response has actually been more damaging than the allegations themselves,” Soto said in an email. “By waiting to directly address the situation, he planted too big of a seed of doubt in many people sitting on the fence.”

Prof. James Mahoney, associate chair of the Department of Political Science, said he is not surprised by the “media blowup” surrounding the allegations.

“When candidates are accused of these kinds of things, the media loves it,” Mahoney said. “Cain has been a frontrunner in the polls and his status as a leader has a lot to do with the attention he has been getting lately because, by one set of criteria, he was a plausible nominee.”

Mahoney addewd this controversy has played out like many sex scandals have in the past.

“All politicians initially deny,” Mahoney said. “Clinton did it. Edwards did it. Unless there is absolute proof, the natural move is to deny because admitting he did this would be utterly devastating to his campaign and probably take him out of the running.”

The Daily Herald reported Wednesday the accuser had a “tense” encounter with Cain last month at a Tea Party rally in Schaumburg, roughly one hour west of Evanston.

– Marshall Cohen