Shrugging off calls for his resignation in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, state Rep. Steve Lebsock this week escalated his criticisms of Democratic Party leaders and said he would remain in office while investigations into two formal complaints against him proceed.
“Ultimately the truth will come out,” Lebsock, a Democrat from Thornton, wrote in a lengthy statement posted to his campaign website.
State Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and two other women earlier this month publicly accused Lebsock of sexual harassment, while several other former legislative aides, lobbyists and lawmakers made similar, anonymous complaints to radio station KUNC. Lebsock issued multiple apologies in response but stressed that he “had done nothing that can be described as criminal.”
The allegations — which come amid a wave of sexual harassment controversies in Hollywood, Congress, the news media and statehouses across the country — prompted swift calls from top Democrats, including House Speaker Crisanta Duran, for Lebsock’s resignation.
This week, Lebsock resisted calls to step down, and suggested that the pressure on him to resign was rooted partly in electoral politics.
“Faith Winter is currently one of two Democratic candidates running for the state Senate seat that Democrats must ‘flip’ in order for Democrats to take control of the Colorado state Senate,” Lebsock wrote in the statement.
“There will be immense pressure on many to accept the allegations as reported in the press because of the priority to flip this seat in 2018 and to get this situation in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. However, a quick resignation for ‘the good of the party,’ although expedient for some in political circles, will not allow for fair fact-finding and due process.”
Lebsock also maintained his innocence, saying that “some of the alleged incidents have been significantly exaggerated. Other accusations are completely false.”
In response, Winter on Wednesday issued a statement of her own on Twitter.
“I told the truth and will continue to tell the truth,” wrote Winter, who was one of two women to file a formal complaint against him. “There is nothing ‘significantly exaggerated.’ ”
I told the truth and will continue to tell the truth. There is nothing “significantly exaggerated”. I said no 5 times to sexual advances. I felt unsafe. Deflecting his responsibility is wrong. I am not alone 10 others have also shared their experience of harassment. #copolitics
— Faith Winter (@FaithKWinter) November 29, 2017
Duran, meanwhile, reiterated her own call for Lebsock to step down.
“I’m disappointed in Rep. Lebsock’s attempts to shift attention to the actions of others rather than taking responsibility for his own,” she said Wednesday in a statement. “I continue to believe he should do the right thing and resign.”
In the wake of allegations against Lebsock and three other state lawmakers — Republican Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate, as well as Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal — top lawmakers this week announced a Dec. 15 meeting to review the state’s workplace harassment policies, which have come under scrutiny.
The extent of harassment allegations at the Capitol is not publicly known. Legislative leaders and attorneys would not disclose how many formal complaints have been filed in recent years, because the process is confidential.
But in the past month, complaints have reportedly been filed against at least three lawmakers: Lebsock, Rosenthal and, most recently, Baumgardner. KUNC this week reported that an anonymous woman filed a formal complaint against the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican for allegedly slapping and grabbing her buttocks repeatedly during the 2016 legislative session. In a response to the radio station, Baumgardner said he was “unable to comment on the specifics of what’s being reported in the press” because of the confidential process.
Of the lawmakers, Lebsock is facing the greatest number of public allegations. He’s also the only one facing public pressure from his party’s leaders to resign.
In a Wednesday interview with The Denver Post, Lebsock elaborated on one part of his statement, in which he accused a “prominent figure in Democratic Colorado politics” of offering him a job in exchange for his prompt resignation.
Lebsock said he received a call from an elected official when the allegations first surfaced, but he declined to name the person.
“I’m not prepared to say at this point,” Lebsock said. “This individual stated that ‘we will make sure that you land well. If you do not resign this weekend, then other shoes will drop.’
“The person went on to say that ‘sometimes resigning sooner than later is best. And we will make sure that you land well and have a good job,’ ” he said.
Lebsock said he was staying in the race for state treasurer as well.
Staff writer John Frank contributed to this report.