Originally published on November 10, 2017 7:21 pm
A flood of lawmakers are now calling for the resignation for Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, in the wake of our reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile, a second woman has come forward with additional allegations that raise questions about Lebsock’s behavior at the State Capitol.
Earlier in the day, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, a Demcorat, said the allegations were “disturbing” and called for Lebsock’s resignation.
“ (...) I would expect that Rep. Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign,” she said. “There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.”
Multiple lawmakers have backed Duran, including Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Mike Johnston, a former lawmaker now running for governor.
Lebsock initially said he didn’t know which incidents were being referenced and later issued a statement encouraging anyone with complaints about his behavior to enter into a formal process at the state legislature.
“I have done nothing that can be described as criminal. Nothing,” the statement reads. “At the end of the road, I believe this experience will help me become a better person and I only hope the very best for everyone involved.”
Allegations against Lebsock were first made public in our reporting where nine other state legislators, staffers and lobbyists alleged that he harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them.
Rep. Faith Winter was willing to be named and spoke of a specific incident where Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him in 2016. Winter alleges that Lebsock suggested sexual acts the two could do to make each other happy.
The latest allegation comes from lobbyist Holly Tarry who worked with Lebsock for three years before she left the Capitol in 2016.
She said looking back it’s clear that his behavior contributed to why she didn’t like the Capitol culture. But she said he was her closest friend in the building — in part because he was one of the only people willing to sponsor animal protection bills.
Tarry, who worked for Colorado Voters for Animals, recalled an incident while they were eating at a restaurant near the Capitol.
“And he said something about us f---king. I said ‘It’s not on the table,’" she said. "And then he jokingly said, ‘It doesn’t have to be on the table.’”
After she confronted him, Tarry said he apologized for making her feel uncomfortable. But that wasn’t the last time.
In another alleged incident in 2016 they were sitting on a bench outside of the capitol. She said she was wearing a dress that came up over her knees when she sat down.
“And he said you look really good you just need to shave the top part of your legs,” she said.
She felt it was objectifying and called him out, something she did routinely. It was part of doing business at the capitol.
“Part of the culture of the capitol is desperation. You have to do what you have to do, and you have to put up with you put up with,” said Tarry.
She said she didn’t want to bring down Lebsock’s career. He was one of the champions of her cause.
“There are not a lot of legislators that want to lead on animal protection bills,” said Tarry. “You work with what you’ve got.”
She said she feels guilty and ashamed that she remained friends with him after these incidents. But after Rep. Faith Winter came forward said she could no longer remain silent.
Lebsock could not be reached to address these specific allegations.
Reactions from other lawmakers
Multiple Colorado politicians have spoken out in support of Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran’s call for Lebsock to resign.
“Steve Lebsock’s behavior is unacceptable, and he must resign immediately,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman in a statement. “No one should be made to feel unsafe by unwanted sexual advances, period.”
“Given the serious and aggravated nature of the actions by Rep. Steve Lebsock towards a colleague, he should resign,” tweeted Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, who served with Lebsock on the Local Government committee.
“Sexual harassment has no place at our State Capitol or any other workplace,” tweeted U.S. House Rep. Jared Polis, who is also running for governor on the Democratic ticket. “I fully support Speaker Duran’s call for Rep. Lebsock to resign.”
While not specifically supporting Duran’s statement, Gov. John Hickenlooper tweeted remarks in support of a better working environment for women in politics.
“Today’s news should give us pause to make sure that we have the appropriate protocols in place to investigate and take action on inappropriate conduct,” he said. “We must ensure that all are respected and the environment where we work is safe.”
The Denver Post editorial board also backed Duran.
Ashley Jefcoat contributed reporting to this story.
Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
Copyright 2017 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.