NEW YORK ― Republican lawmakers in Colorado are embracing a Democratic colleague who quit his caucus this week after nearly a dozen women, including a female Democratic state representative, accused him of sexual harassment.
Eleven women ― including a former legislative aide, several lobbyists and fellow state Rep. Faith Winter (D) ― accused state Rep. Steve Lebsock (D) of sexual harassment in November. Winter, a married 37-year-old lawmaker, says Lebsock aggressively came on to her at a bar in 2016.
“I said ‘no’ five times to leaving the bar to go have sex with him,” Winter told HuffPost. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Lebsock denies the allegations, which are being formally investigated by House leadership. On Tuesday, the day before Colorado’s 2018 legislative session began, he sent his colleagues a bizarre 28-page manifesto defending himself and detailing the sexual history of one of his accusers. He offered an alibi for one of the incidents, in which he allegedly tried to unbutton a woman’s blouse at a bar, claiming that he was playing a “Ms. Pac-Man” arcade game that night and recorded a very high score.
The document did not win Lebsock any sympathy from his caucus. Several Democratic lawmakers, including Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, wore black on the first day of the legislative session in protest and called for Lebsock to resign. Duran received a standing ovation when she told colleagues in her opening speech that “we must confront these issues head-on and successfully reform the culture of the Capitol.” State Rep. Matt Gray (D) said he would introduce a resolution to expel Lebsock from his seat.
Lebsock refuses to resign, but he was so frustrated by the rebukes from his Democratic colleagues that he abruptly quit the caucus on Wednesday. He thanked Republicans for literally embracing him.
— Steve Lebsock (@RepLebsock) January 10, 2018
Lebsock is not switching parties ― he’s still running for state treasurer as a Democrat. But Republicans have been much warmer to him than members of his own party. State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R) defended Lebsock in his speech at the start of the new legislative session Wednesday.
“I perfectly understand and share a sense of outrage when we hear stories of bad behavior, but when accusations appear where the law is made, we must observe due process so that we fairly and objectively handle complaints and workplace issues,” Neville said.
And Rick Enstrom, a top Republican donor in Colorado, had kind words for Lebsock on Twitter.
You’re a good legislator, Steve. Represent your district and keep working to make CO an even better place to work and live.
— Rick Enstrom (@rickenstrom) January 10, 2018
Lebsock, Neville and the Colorado GOP did not respond to requests for comment.
Lebsock told 9NEWS on Thursday that the accusations against him are “lies.”
“Real sexual harassment and real sexual assault is intolerable,” he said.