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El Paso County delegation almost unanimous in vote to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock

Author: Marianne Goodland - March 6, 2018 - Updated: March 8, 2018

Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, listens during a debate in the chamber whether to expel the lawmaker over sexual misconduct allegations from his peers Friday, March 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver. The effort faces tough odds amid Republican objections to how the complaints have been handled. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The eight members of the Colorado House from El Paso County were nearly unanimous on whether or not to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock. Seven of the eight voted in favor of the resolution to expel the Thornton Democrat.

The lone “no” vote came from the El Paso delegation’s newest member, Republican Rep. Shane Sandridge, who was chosen in December by a vacancy committee to replace Rep. Dan Nordberg, both of Colorado Springs.

Last Friday the House voted 52-9, with three members absent and Lebsock not voting, to expel Lebsock for allegedly sexually harassing five women, including fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster. Sixteen Republicans joined the remaining 36 Democrats in favor of expulsion.

Party affiliation didn’t make a difference. There are six Republicans and two Democrats in the House delegation from El Paso County. Five of the six Republicans and both Democrats voted to expel Lebsock.

Perhaps the most surprising of the “yes” votes came from Republican Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs, who tried but failed to persuade lawmakers to set up a select committee to investigate Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver. The select committee, according to an amendment offered by Williams during Friday’s debate, would have asked why Lebsock was promoted to a position of power “with the potential risk that citizen activists, lobbyists, employees and other colleagues could be victimized.”

That promotion refers to a 2017 decision by Duran to make Lebsock chair of the House Local Government Committee. Winter said Lebsock propositioned her in May of 2016 at an end-of-session party, and told lawmakers during Friday’s debate she said “no” to him five times. She complained shortly after the event to Duran, which allegedly elicited a promise from Lebsock that he would stop drinking and that there would be no further incidents.

However, Winter found out that the alleged behavior didn’t stop, which led her to file a formal complaint. A month later Lebsock began drafting a 28-page manifesto that made allegations about the victims’ sex lives. That was viewed by many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as retaliation, which is strictly prohibited under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy. The manifesto was distributed to every member of the House at the beginning of the session in January.

Lebsock was stripped of his committee chairmanship in January.

Just after 1 p.m. and about four hours into the debate, Republican Rep. Larry Liston of Colorado Springs was the first of his caucus to officially announce he would vote to expel. The announcement drew gasps in the chamber. Liston said that loyalty only goes so far.

Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain was among House members who indicated the vote was a “Hobson’s Choice”: to take what’s available or not at all. But just before 3 p.m. Friday, she’d made her choice, saying she would vote yes because a “no” vote would send the wrong message.

Williams told Colorado Politics Tuesday that “just because the Democratic leadership engaged in a coverup, doesn’t excuse Lebsock’s behavior. I believed the victims back in November, I believe them now. His behavior, plus the retaliatory manner in which he responded, was unacceptable.”

Sandridge explained his “no” vote Tuesday. He is a former police officer from Kansas City, Missouri, and a former clinical psychotherapist who has worked with children and adults with criminal tendencies. That background is part of why he voted against the resolution.

“I’ve been through many processes, analyzing people’s truthfulness,” he told Colorado Politics. “There has to be a process,” and he wasn’t comfortable with the one in front of legislators.

Sandridge said he also voted no because of a lack of an adequate due process. He would have preferred to see more exposure of the evidence.

“We had letters from anonymous people,” he said. “I would have liked more time to read over the documents, maybe even question some of the accusers and Lebsock.”

He also noted the House hired a firm — the Employers Council — to analyze the witnesses’ demeanor, and Sandridge said he would have liked that same opportunity.

“When you’re asking to override Lebsock’s constituents, override their sacred vote, that’s a big deal. We need to go through a specific due process before that takes place.”

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.