THURSDAY UPDATE: Having waxed a little tongue-in-cheek about all of this yesterday (see below), we’re obliged to clarify that Rep. Steve Lebsock has not formally left the Democratic Party–at least not yet. Departure from the Democratic caucus combined with a warm welcome from Republicans makes that seem likely, but we’ll watch for the formalities to catch up.
Outside the Colorado Capitol today, a protest against sexual harassment after widespread allegations rocked the Colorado General Assembly over the past few months as the Denver Post reports:
A small protest on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session calling for the resignation of a Democratic lawmaker embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment quieted doubts about whether the scandals that rattled the Colorado Capitol late last year will color the 120-day term.
The protesters outside the statehouse demanded the resignation of Rep. Steve Lebsock after fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter leveled accusations in November that he discussed sexual acts and grabbed her elbow to get her to leave with him from a 2016 legislative party.
But a funny thing happened today on the way to holding accused serial harasser Rep. Steve Lebsock accountable. Colorado Republicans stepped in to stand up for Lebsock:
On the opening day of the new legislative session Wednesday, Neville said he shares a sense of outrage about stories of bad behavior. However, he said that when accusations are made in the building where state law is made, due process must be followed so the complaints are fairly and objectively handled.
Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s opening statement giving Lebsock the benefit of the doubt despite accusations from nearly a dozen women resulted in what appears to be Lebsock’s departure from the Democratic House caucus. Denver7’s Blair Miller:
“There are 11 of us on record, and this isn’t a Faith versus Steve story,” [Cassie] Tanner said. “This is about acceptable behavior and standing up to bullies, and I’m honored to have these two women standing next to me today.”
Later Wednesday, Lebsock tweeted that he wouldn’t be caucusing with his own party during this year’s session, and said, referring to the moments when Duran addressed the situation in her speech: “Thank you to several Republican House members coming up to me and giving me hugs.” [Pols emphasis]
And in a move we can only call extraordinary, Colorado Republicans appear to be welcoming Lebsock with open arms:
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
That’s Rick Enstrom, a principal at Enstrom’s Toffee and top-tier local Republican donor cheering on Lebsock’s announcement that he will caucus with the Republican Party in the House this legislative session. Combined with Neville’s extension of a lifeline to Lebsock in his speech today, Lebsock’s immediate future in the Colorado General Assembly appears to be settled. We have no idea if the House Republicans will now give Lebsock committee assignments, or what this will mean for Lebsock’s run for Treasurer as a Democrat. But because House Democrats have a solid majority, Lebsock took his seat this morning on the Republican side of the aisle.
And now it’s a perfect fit! Democrats were outraged when they heard the news…except no, they weren’t.
With everything taking place today in the movement for accountability for sexual harassment throughout society, and an emerging gulf between Democrats aggressively policing their ranks and a Republican Party led by the “P—y Grabber-In-Chief,” we have to say that Lebsock switching to the Republican caucus makes a particularly damning kind of sense. We’d say this will do wonders for attracting the p—y grabbing vote, but let’s face it: Republicans already have that vote sewn up.
So yes, good luck to Rep. Lebsock as he leaves the Democratic House caucus of the Colorado General Assembly in order to stave off his day of reckoning. Democrats won’t be sorry to see him go, and Republicans have so much brand damage in this regard that you could argue it can hardly get any worse. But we believe this development will help voters make their choice between the parties in downballot races this November.
Because both parties have bad actors, but only one is emerging as a haven for them.