A Victory for Victims

(March 2) – The House of Representatives has expelled a member for the first time in 103 years.

By a vote of 52 to 9, the House this afternoon expelled Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, after a three-month investigation by an independent third-party investigator found that all 11 accusations of sexual harassment against him, by five different women, were credible. One of those who came forward is Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster.

“I was motivated,” she told the House today, “to make sure our democracy worked and that women’s voices were valued, that someone in a position of power who used his power for sexual favors was not okay, that in this building when a woman showed up for work she was valued for her hard work and her ideas.”

During debate that lasted seven hours, statements were read from the well from the four other women who filed formal complaints against Rep. Lebsock. Speaker after speaker came to the microphone to denounce Rep. Lebsock’s misconduct, including his retaliation against his accusers, which is itself a violation of the legislature’s workplace harassment policy.

“Today we achieved a victory over fear and intimidation,” said Majority Leader KC Becker, who oversaw the Lebsock investigation and sponsored the resolution to expel him. “Justice won today. I’m proud of all my colleagues, including the Republicans, who took the first step toward changing the culture at the Capitol.”

“We have this tool,” said Speaker Pro Tem Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, describing today’s vote just before it was taken. “This is our tool to correct a terrible climate in this building, to correct a wrong that has been wrong for a very long time.”

Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, a witness to Rep. Lebsock’s harassment of Rep. Winter, spoke to the tension that has pervaded the House of Representatives this session when he tearfully acknowledged that he has worn a bulletproof vest for fear that Rep. Lebsock would make good on his threat to “take you down.” Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, who was the first to say he would sponsor a resolution to expel Rep. Lebsock, also said he had begun wearing a bulletproof vest.

“There are five women who have come forward. There has been a pattern of behavior that has been established and there has been retaliation,” Speaker Duran said. “Today we sent a message to the victims, to young girls, to the next generation of leaders and public servants who are watching, that we will no longer tolerate the intolerable.”

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