Updated 6:35 p.m.
Walker Stapleton, Colorado’s Republican candidate for governor, said Democratic state Rep. Jovan Melton of Aurora should resign from office. The call follows revelations that Melton had been arrested twice in the past two decades for domestic violence.
“Violence against women is never acceptable and Jovan Melton needs to take responsibility for his actions and resign,” Stapleton said. “I urge Congressman Polis to join me in calling for Rep. Melton’s resignation and to condemn violence against women in any circumstance.”
Republican leaders in the House have condemned Melton’s past actions, but Stapleton is the most high profile GOP official to date to seek his resignation.
The top three Democratic House leaders issued a statement asking Melton to resign on Wednesday, one day after The Denver Post published details of the arrests.
Later Thursday evening, Jared Polis, the Democratic candidate for governor, responded with a statement that said he agreed with “Speaker Duran and with Majority Leader Becker that [Melton] should take a serious look at resigning.”
“I believe in consequences; I also believe in redemption,” Polis said. “If somebody committed a crime when they’re young, does that mean they should never stand for public office? If they redeem themselves? If they ask, those who were affected, to make restitution? And then it’s up to the voters. In this case, I think Rep. Melton really needs to look himself in the mirror and ask if he can continue to be an effective representative for the people of his district, having lost the confidence of his colleagues, and so many voters.”
So far, Gov. John Hickenlooper has not weighed in on the situation. The calls for resignation have divided some in Democratic circles with two prominent leaders in the black community saying Melton was being unfairly targeted and Democrats should not ask him to step down.
“He’s a good person and we all make mistakes,” said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. “He made his 20 years ago and he paid for it. And now he’s being asked to pay for it again.”
The Boulder District Attorney’s office confirmed that in the 1999 incident, Melton pled guilty to harassment. He received a 12 month deferred sentence, and had to stay away from the victim and take domestic violence classes, which he completed. In the 2008 incident, he was arrested for misdemeanor assault, but the case was dismissed and the woman involved told CPR News that he didn’t hit her.
Rep. Melton has apologized for causing the two women emotional pain, but said he’s never been physically violent.
“While I categorically deny any allegations that suggest any violence against the women involved, I am both embarrassed and heartbroken to be reminded of my immaturity all those years ago,” Melton said.
Melton is up for reelection in 2018 in a safe house district with no political challengers. Many people who’ve been involved in exposing sexual misconduct at the state capitol for the past year feel strongly that Melton should no longer serve as an elected representative.