A week after Steve Lebsock’s expulsion from the Colorado House for sexual harassment allegations, the Colorado Republican Committee on Friday said they will convene the Republican Central Committee of House District 34’s vacancy committee to replace the former representative’s seat.
Though it was expected, the party made it official in an announcement Friday morning in an emailed release. Colorado Republican Chairman Jeff Hays said in the release what he previously said this week: Because of Lebsock’s last-second party switch from Democrat to Republican, the GOP has the authority to fill his seat. There was a slim chance that Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, could have filled the seat if Republicans did not appoint a replacement.
“We owe it to the people of House District 34 to give them the experience of ethical representation, which the Democrats, when they controlled the seat, signally failed to provide,” Hays said.
Hays called into question Democrats response to Lebsock’s allegations. One of Lebsock’s accusers, Rep. Faith Winter, told legislative leaders about the harassment in 2016. Winters told current House Speaker Crisanta Duran when she was majority leader. Winter decided not to pursue a complaint at the time due to fears her reputation would be tarnished.
“If voters had known what Democratic leadership knew, they would have roundly rejected Lebsock,” Hays said.
Colorado Democrat Party Chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement Friday that House District 34 seat “does not belong to either” party.
“It belongs to the voters, who will have the ultimate say in November,” Carroll said. “We are confident that the voters of House District 34 will be represented by a Democrat by the time the next session begins.”
Carroll called attention to a trio of GOP representatives in the Senate who are currently facing sexual harassment allegations.
Carroll mentions state Sens. Randy Baumgardner, Jack Tate, and Larry Crowder as examples that, “Republicans have done nothing,” to hold them accountable. Democrats this week pushed to expel Baumgardner over claims made by a former legislative aid. Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham said Baumgardner has already been punished.
“Democrats took action to expel Steve Lebsock because it was the right thing to do, regardless of the political consequences,” Carroll said in the statement. “Lebsock has now found his natural home in a political party that protects sexual predators instead of holding them accountable.”
Democrats have previously said they’re exploring “legal options,” though Carroll made no mention of their intentions to block or prevent a Republican appointment in her statement Friday. The party more or less disowned Lebsock prior to expulsion, calling for his resignation the same week he was expelled.