Sen. Randy Baumgardner, Center Of Several Sexual Harassment Allegations, Resigns

<p>(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)</p>
<p>Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, listens to debate on the Senate floor in March 2018.</p>
Photo: Sen. Randy Baumgardner March 2018 (AP Photo)
Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, listens to debate on the Senate floor in March 2018.

The state Senate avoided a potentially contentious start to the legislative session when Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner announced his resignation Monday.

Baumgardner will leave office Jan. 21.

During the last legislative session, two separate outside investigations concluded Baumgardner grabbed a former staffer’s buttocks, said inappropriate comments to another intern, created “an intimidating, offensive, and hostile work environment” for five nonpartisan Senate staffers in 2016 and “substantially interfered” with one woman’s work performance.

Baumgardner has staunchly denied all of those allegations and survived a Democratic-led expulsion vote vote over the first one that surfaced.

“During my time under the Golden Dome, I’ve learned many lessons, with none being more important that always put your family first,” Baumgardner said in a Dec. 17 resignation letter addressed to the Secretary of the Senate. “My family’s resilience and love have given me the grace to continue forward under the most difficult of circumstances, and in light of new opportunities, I must put them first in order to fulfill my obligations as a father and as a husband.”

Rumors about a possible exit for Baumgardner have swirled for months, and only intensified after Democrats picked up seats in the November election to win the majority in the chamber. If Baumgardner hadn’t stepped down, he would have run the risk of Democrats trying to expel him again.

“To work in the Capitol is an honor and a privilege that demands the highest standards in both behavior and commitment to serving the people of Colorado,” Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan said. “Sen. Baumgardner has his reasons for resigning, and I will not question his intent, but after a third party found multiple accusations credible, I do believe it is the right thing for him to step away from elected office.”

Katia Birge, the first person to file a complaint against Baumgardner, said the senator is part of a larger systemic problem at the state Capitol.

“It would have been unnecessary for it to come to this, if people like Senate President Kevin Grantham and Majority Leader Chris Holbert had followed their moral compasses, and been willing to sit down and talk with the accusers to try to work something out,” Birge said.

It is Birge's hope that as lawmakers craft a new workplace harassment policy next session, the people who have been harassed or filed complaints have a seat at the table.

Before Baumgardner announced his resignation, Republican Senate leaders had taken the unusual step of not assigning him to any committees for the upcoming 2019 legislative session. In the previous session, Baumgardner chaired the Senate Transportation Committee, before he stepped down from the post. He also sponsored and helped pass Senate Bill 1, the signature Republican bill of the session to shore up more money for roads and provide a transportation funding boost.

Baumgardner was first elected to the House in 2008, before moving to the Senate in 2012. He was term limited and would have had to leave office in 2020. He represented a large district in the northern mountains and was a strong voice on rural issues in the capitol.

A local committee of Republicans will select Baumgardner’s replacement. By stepping down in mid-January, Baumgardner has allowed whoever does replace him to serve the rest of his term and then run for re-election twice.

Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village announced his resignation. An investigation found that Kagan used the Senate’s unmarked women’s restroom three times in 2017. He said it only happened once and it wasn’t the reason he was stepping down from office.