The saga of sexual harassment at the State Capitol has taken a turn — into the women’s restroom.
Senate Republicans are accusing Democratic state Sen. Daniel Kagan of frequenting a bathroom designated for female lawmakers.
Kagan said the story is a massive exaggeration. Like other Democrats, he believes the claim is nothing more than an effort to distract from harassment complaints filed against Republicans. Even so, the story has resulted in a formal complaint against Kagan, and a new round of partisan rancor in the Capitol.
This situation started Friday when Kagan joined a chorus of Democratic senators who took to the chamber’s microphone to call for the expulsion of Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner. An investigation has found Baumgardner likely groped an aide in 2016. Senate leadership has so-far declined to act on the findings beyond a letter that acknowledged he had voluntarily agreed to take sensitivity training and resign as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
All House Democrats have co-sponsored a resolution to expel Baumgardner. Senate President Kevin Grantham has so far declined to bring the matter up for a vote.
Democrats have been increasingly confrontational in their demands for leadership to do more. During his turn at the mic, Kagan took a graphic approach, reciting the legal details of what constitutes sexual assault, and noted, “many butt-slappers and thigh-strokers fancy that they are merely flirting and flattering.”
On Monday, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham called Kagan’s remarks “despicable.” He said many members were visibly shaken. Then, Grantham dropped a new allegation from his Republican members, noting the speech came from a man “that is known — known — to frequent the women’s restroom.”
Sen. Owen Hill is one of the lawmakers who claims to have witnessed the intrusion. The Republican said he was taking his young daughters to an unmarked women’s room near the Senate floor last year when Kagan came through the door.
“I will no longer let my girls use this bathroom,” Hill said.
Republican Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik claims she saw Kagan in the bathroom multiple times last year . On Monday, she filed a formal complaint detailing that allegation, according to KUNC. She declined to comment or provide the complaint to Colorado Public Radio.
For his part, Sen. Kagan said he has been in the restroom, but it was an innocent mistake that only happened once, early in his first session as a senator. He said upon realizing his error, he “shamefacedly and sheepishly” left.
The facility in question is unmarked. There’s no sign indicating it’s a women’s restroom, or even a restroom at all. The door does have a keypad to limit access, but many lawmakers say the lock has been broken or removed multiple times.
“I wish there had been a keypad on there,” Kagan said, “would have properly prevented my embarrassing mistake.”
Kagan suspects the story is actually an attempt to take the heat off Republican senators, at least three of whom have faced formal complaints so far this year.
“I fear that what they are doing is looking around for something to distract attention from that, but I can’t look inside their minds,” he said. “All I know is they seems to be making a mountain out of less than a molehill.”
A number of Kagan’s Democratic colleagues agree, including Sen. Rhonda Fields who called the story a “nothing burger” compared to the complaint against Baumgardner.
Democratic Sen. Nancy Todd is furious the matter has risen to the level of a formal complaint and to the attention of the media.
“The people sent us to be good problem solvers. If we can’t problem solve issues like this, what are we doing talking about the state budget?” Todd said.
The complaint against Kagan will trigger an investigation. As for the lock outside the women’s bathroom? At this point, it’s currently working.
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!