The state legislature is back to work today after a dramatic daylong session in the State House on Friday that culminated in the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock over multiple claims of sexual harassment.
There will still be plenty of discussion about Lebsock and his surprise decision to switch his party affiliation on Friday, but for the broader story of addressing sexual harassment at the State Capitol, all eyes now turn to Senate President Kevin Grantham.
As Bente Birkeland of KUNC reports today, Grantham seems fairly oblivious to the significance of what happened on Friday:
NEW: Sen. President Grantham on the expulsion vote in the House “I can see how difficult that decision was for them. It would’ve been difficult for me being on that chamber floor.” He added it doesn’t change Senate process….#coleg #copolitics #cogov
— Bente Birkeland (@BenteBirkeland) March 5, 2018
By a vote of 52-9, the State House on Friday expelled a sitting legislator for the first time in more than 100 years. The vote to expel Lebsock included 16 Republicans, which eliminates any suggestion of some sort of partisan effort. Grantham may not want Friday’s vote to “change [the] Senate process” for dealing with sexual harassment, but a fundamental shift occurred whether he likes it or not. It is completely ludicrous for Grantham to publicly state that Lebsock’s expulsion doesn’t change anything for his caucus; it changes everything.
Three sitting Senators — all Republicans — have been accused of sexual harassment. There have been multiple complaints of sexual harassment against Sen. Randy Baumgardner — at least one of which has already been deemed credible by an independent investigator — but the only action taken has been for Baumgardner to voluntarily resign as the chair of the Transportation Committee and agree to take part in some sort of “sensitivity training.” Grantham apparently thinks this is sufficient in Baumgardner’s case, which is particularly ridiculous given that two more formal harassment complaints have been filed against Baumgardner since Grantham’s statement that the matter is closed.
Grantham has also said that a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Larry Crowder has been deemed a “closed” matter, though he has yet to make any definitive statements about a complaint against Sen. Jack Tate (which has also been deemed credible by an independent investigator). As of today, Grantham is still sticking by his ridiculous argument from last Thursday that he would only address “criminal” complaints against a sitting Senator.
Grantham’s current position is morally and ethically indefensible, but it is also politically unsustainable. The longer he drags out this absurd argument, the more Grantham endangers his entire caucus in an election year that was already looking grim for Republicans.