PRIMARY PREVIEW: 5 Democratic races to watch for the Colo. legislature

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver. Three Democrats are vying to succeed the term-limited Guzman. (Colorado Politics file photo)

Colorado Senate Democrats pushed back hard on the Senate Republicans’ request for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to get involved in statehouse sexual harassment cases Wednesday afternoon. And they maintained the drumbeat for the expulsion of Sen. Randy Baumgardner, one of three Senate Republicans accused of improper conduct.

Last, backed by GOP women, Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City announced the request for a criminal prosecutor at a Capitol press conference the day before the House expelled then-Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton for multiple sexual harassment allegations.

To read the Republicans’ letter click here.

Grantham reasoned that some of the allegations in some of the cases could amount to sexual assault. McCann, a former House Democrat, said a request would have to come from a victim.

Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman, a minister from Denver, provided her harsh judgment on the GOP request and followed it with a fact sheet, from the left’s perspective.

Senate Democrats want Baumgardner out, as well. He already resigned his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Transportation Committee.

“Senate Republicans do not need a permission slip from the DA to hold harassers accountable,” Guzman said in an afternoon statement. “Our colleagues in the House took bipartisan action to hold Rep. Lebsock accountable — it’s past time for the Senate to do the same.”

She characterized the GOP effort as “criminal investigations in service of their own political agenda.”

Grantham replied in a statement a couple of hours later.

“If Sen. Guzman wanted to dictate punishment for Sen. Baumgardner she should not have removed herself from the legislative process,” he said. “Sen. Baumgardner was punished, with the exact punishment requested by Sen. Guzman when she was still part of the process, weeks ago. For her office to say otherwise is a complete misrepresentation,” Grantham said.

“We have also asked for further criminal investigation into all workplace harassment complaints tantamount to assault. We, as legislators, lack the tools to investigate and punish allegations of this severity. This is why we have repeatedly called on Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to investigate these allegations and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law if she finds the necessary evidence.

He drove home a point in a conclusion: “It is beyond baffling why Democrats want to protect the accused – both Republicans and Democrats – from criminal prosecution if they did what has been alleged.”

Guzman was irked about the Senate’s letter asking for a prosecution over the wishes of the alleged victims. That issue hits close to home for Democrats. House Speaker Crisanta Duran of Denver knew of the first complaint against Lebsock — that he reportedly made a drunken, aggressive effort to proposition Rep. Faith Winter at a bar — in May 2016. After Winter accepted his promise not to drink or act that way again, she didn’t ask Duran to punish Lebsock. He was re-elected that November and appointed to committee chairmanship the next January.

House Republicans called that a cover up that endangered other women at the Capitol. Duran has said she doesn’t regret respecting the wishes of a victim of sexual harassment.

Guzman said Wednesday that doing otherwise “flies in the face a #MeToo movement that puts victims first.”

She also doesn’t like the effort to dismiss the findings of the independent investigator, who has determined credibility in the statehouse allegations.

“Dismissing independent investigations as invalid, inappropriately blurring the lines between independent law enforcement and elected officials for political gain, pushing wilful (sic) misinterpretations of the law to shelter abuses of power — these actions by Senate GOP leadership mirror the alarming disrespect for rule of law and institutional norms that we’ve seen from the Trump administration at the federal level. We condemn this behavior in the strongest possible terms,” Guzman concluded.

Here’s the fact sheet the House Democrats provided:

Myths vs Facts

Myth: Senate Democrats are calling for Sen. Baumgardner’s resignation over an alleged violation of the law.

This is false. We have called for Sen. Baumgardner’s resignation because an independent investigation has found that he violated the Legislature’s workplace harassment policy. He put his hands on someone — pinching and grabbing their rear end multiple times. This behavior is unacceptable and would be grounds for termination in any other workplace. Sen. Baumgardner is not entitled to special treatment because he is an elected official. In fact, his position of power is precisely the reason he must be held to a higher standard.For decades, victims of harassment have experienced this behavior and seen the perpetrators walk away with no consequences. We must join our House colleagues by drawing a clear line in the sand: if you commit sexual harassment, you will lose your job. Until that’s the standard, this behavior will continue.

Myth: 100 years of precedent supports criminal conviction as the standard for expulsion from the legislature.

“The actions the House took on Friday doesn’t change 100 years worth of precedent in one day” – Senate President Kevin Grantham, 3.5.18This is false. There have been two legislators expelled in the last 103 years: Rep. William Howland (1915) and Rep. Steve Lebsock (2018). Neither was convicted of a crime at the time of expulsion.

Article V Sec. 12 of the Colorado Constitution clearly states that expulsion is a separate process from criminal prosecution:“Each house shall have with the concurrence of two-thirds, to expel a member, but not a second time for the same cause, and shall have all other powers necessary for the legislature of a free state. A member expelled for corruption shall not thereafter be eligible to either house of the same general assembly, and punishment for contempt or disorderly behavior shall not bar a prosecution for the same offense.”power to determine the rules of its proceedings and adopt rules providing punishment of its members or other persons for contempt or disorderly behavior in its presence; to enforce obedience to its process; to protect its members against violence, or offers of bribes or private solicitation …

Myth: The accused have not received due process.

This is false. The complaints against Sen. Baumgardner were investigated by a neutral third party and found to be credible using the “preponderance of evidence” standard. This is the same standard of evidence used in most civil equal opportunity employment cases.

Senate expulsion procedure

We submitted our resolution to expel Sen Baumgardner on February 13, 2018.

Once submitted, a resolution is not officially “introduced” until it’s read across the Senate President’s desk. It has been 23 days since we submitted our resolution to expel. It has yet to be officially “introduced,” which means we cannot move forward with debate or vote.

Republican leadership controls the timing of this process. The deadline to read a bill across the desk is April 12, which means they could continue put this off for another month.

Once introduced, Senate GOP leadership could send it to a committee or directly to the floor. It takes a two-thirds floor vote (24 members) of the Senate (and only the Senate) to expel a Senator.

 

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include Senate President Kevin Grantham’s response.

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