DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers voted Friday to expel a Democratic state House member over sexual harassment allegations, making him the nation’s second state lawmaker kicked out for such misconduct since the rise of the #MeToo movement.
The vote followed a day of dramatic debate when numerous female lawmakers took their turns at the podium to come out as victims of sexual harassment or abuse. A male colleague tearfully talked about his wife’s rape.
Two successive male representatives told fellow members of the House that they were so worried about tensions stemming from the case against Rep. Steve Lebsock that they had taken to wearing bulletproof vests beneath their jackets and ties.
Lebsock is accused of sexually harassing five women, including a fellow legislator who pleaded Friday for a “yes” vote based on abuse of power.
Rep. Faith Winter, a Democrat, told her colleagues she suffered verbal retaliation, harassment and humiliation by Lebsock after she accused him of accosting her at an end-of-session party in 2016.
“The last months have been awful,” Winter told her colleagues, who stood somberly as she spoke. “I have taken public attack, after attack, after attack while I have patiently stood by waiting for due process to take its course.”
“Today is not about sex. It is about power,” she said.
Lebsock, who represented suburbs north of Denver including Northglenn and Thornton, denied the allegations and repeatedly said Winter and other accusers are lying. He asked his colleagues Friday for a formal committee investigation, saying a previous outside review that concluded the claims were credible was flawed.
“Our investigations in this body should be held at the very highest standard,” Lebsock said before the vote. “This investigation has been anything but a highest standard. In fact it’s been the lowest of standards.”
Lebsock ignored several calls from lawmakers for him to resign during the debate rather than face the expulsion vote.
“It’s been the honor of my life to serve the people of Colorado and I was willing to fight this year for the people of Colorado,” said a tearful Lebsock, looking up at the visitor’s gallery, just before the 52-9 vote to oust him.
Lebsock declined to address the specific claims against him, noting he had done so previously, including a document he provided to all 65 House members in December.
Arizona Republican Rep. Don Shooter was expelled Feb. 1 over misconduct claims. A California state senator resigned just moments before his colleagues sought to formally expel him after a series of sexual misconduct allegations.
The debate over sexual harassment has engulfed both chambers of Colorado’s Legislature. Three Republicans in the GOP-led Senate were accused of misconduct; one of them, to date, has stepped down as chair of a committee, while denying wrongdoing.
Senate President Kevin Grantham held a news conference Thursday to decry Colorado’s investigative process, which calls for a confidential, third-party investigation. He called for Denver’s district attorney to investigate whether Lebsock had committed any crimes.
However, District Attorney Beth McCann said a complaint must be filed with police before her office could investigate.
By JAMES ANDERSON and COLLEEN SLEVIN, Associated Press
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