Over the last year, half a dozen Colorado state legislators were accused of sexual harassment as the MeToo movement gained steam. By the end of 2018, nearly all of them were voted out by colleagues, primary voters or by resignation.
The latest announcement came from Republican Senator Randy Baumgardner who announced Monday he's retiring. In a statement, he said:
"It has been the honor of my life to serve the residents of both House District 57 and Senate District 8 over the last ten years. I am humbled by the support I have received in my elections and even more so by those that have been positively affected by legislation I have worked on."
Earlier this year a third-party investigation earlier found Baumgardner "more likely than not" grabbed and slapped a legislative aide's buttocks in 2016. However, a move to expel him from the state Senate failed in April.
"My reaction was relief," said Democratic Senator-Elect Faith Winter. "We can now move forward with our ultimate goal of creating a culture where everyone feels safe and valued."
There was a time when even fellow elected officials didn't know what the outcome would be of coming forward. Winter, who at the time was a representative, was one of five women who filed a complaint against former Democratic state Rep. Steve Lebsock of sexual misconduct last year. He was the only person expelled by his colleagues.
"Everyone including young women, aids and lobbyists should feel comfortable working with us here," Winter said.
Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik said she just wanted the questionable behavior to stop when she came forward and said Democratic state Sen. Daniel Kagen used the women's restroom multiple times.
While Kagen denies this, a third-party investigation found "more likely than not" he did go into a woman's restroom.
Kagan announced in early December he was going to resign. He didn't talk about the accusation but said:
"[It's been] a great honor to serve the people of Colorado for just short of a decade. An important obligation of leaders, I believe, is to be open to acknowledging that it's time to pass the torch to new leadership and for me, that time is now. I am comfortable with my decision, largely because I now that we have no shortage of individuals in Arapahoe County who would do a superb job of representing the people of Senate District 26."
"I don't know what their total reasoning for their resignations are," Humenik said. "That's a personal choice." She did say there are indications that allegations are being taken seriously.
Humenik said that people who bring complaints forward need to be listened to and that the accused deserve due process. She lost her election in November.
"I would hope this isn't something that overshadows the coming session and the years to come because there is important work to be done here," she said.
Democratic state Rep. Paul Rosenthal was cleared of allegations he harassed a political activist before he was elected in 2012. He lost in the primary elections earlier this year.
Republican state Senator Larry Crowder was accused by Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine of sexual harassment. He denied wrongdoing. A spokesman for the Senate Republicans said he apologized for any misunderstanding and the Senate considered the case closed. Crowder cannot run for re-election because he is term-limited.
Republican state Senator Jack Tate was also accused of sexual misconduct. That case was closed as well within the Senate.
He announced Nov. 30 that he will be leaving public service at the end of his term and will not seek re-election in 2020. Tate wrote he made the decision because it's right for his family: "I am grateful for the trust placed in me by my community, and I am most honored to serve," he said.
A bipartisan committee took a closer look at the culture at the Capitol and helped establish a human resources staffer since there wasn't one before. The committee also provided more clarity on how to stay anonymous when coming forward with a complaint. Issues that weren't resolved may be brought up during the new session starting in January.
Democratic state House Speaker, Crisanta Duran wrote:
"We took the issue of sexual harassment head on and worked to reform the culture of the capitol by depoliticizing the process, making it easier for victims to come forward, protecting victim confidentiality, enhancing transparency among the public and ensuring a clearer, fairer process for all involved. I couldn't be prouder that I am leaving the capitol in a better position than I found it, and I hope my colleagues will continue to make these issues a priority during the next legislative session with rule and statute changes."
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