After seven hours of emotional and heated debate, the Colorado House of Representatives voted 52–9 to expel Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock from the General Assembly. The historic vote marks the first time since 1915 that a member of Colorado’s legislature has been expelled.
Over the past three months, five women brought forth 11 allegations of sexual harassment against Lebsock, which culminated this week in House Majority Leader KC Becker introducing a nearly unprecedented resolution for expulsion. Though many members of the General Assembly had called for Lebsock’s resignation, he refused to step down, thus forcing the House to vote on the matter.
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The two parties caucused privately on Thursday, and going into Friday’s session, the vote was thought to be tight. However, after a debate that brought raw emotion and fierce tempers to the chamber floor, the result was definitive: Lebsock’s seat in the House of Representatives is now vacant.
Democratic Rep. Faith Winter, one of the women who accused Lebsock of sexual harassment, began the session by delivering an impassioned statement. “I said no, five times. Five times. Not once, not twice, five times,” she declared. “He silenced victims. He made them feel as though their voices were not believed or not valid. Without this vote we will tell women that their experiences and voices don’t matter.”
Lebsock addressed the assembly briefly in the morning, reiterating that he has been honest and that he denies all the allegations against him. “You can look me in the eye and tell I’m telling the truth,” he said. He then criticized the merits of the investigation into his conduct, claiming that the process was flawed. “All I asked for was due process. But that’s not what we got. This investigation has been anything but a high standard.” After his initial statements, Lebsock retreated from the chambers for most of the day, leaving House members to debate amongst themselves.
While all Democrats (besides Lebsock) were in support of expulsion leading up to Friday’s vote, it was unclear where Republicans stood. Reps. Larry Liston and Cole Wist were the first two members of the Republican caucus to indicate that they would vote in favor of expulsion. Ultimately, 16 Republicans voted for expulsion.
One of the most dramatic moments of Friday’s debate came when a tearful Rep. Chris Hansen addressed the House and told the story of his wife being drugged and sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant several years ago. His honest and emotional testimony appeared to shift the tone of the room.
More tears would fall before the day was over. When Lebsock returned to address the chamber before the final vote, he began crying as he spoke about his military experience and implored House members that he would protect them. But still, he remained defiant. “I have no reason to lie,” he said, claiming he already knew how the vote would come in.
Before the final vote, House Speaker Crisanta Duran asked Lebsock, one more time, to resign. “Rep. Lebsock, you claim to know the vote,” she said. “If that is true, I ask you respectfully to resign.” Lebsock then spoke one last time, refused to resign and told the members: “Simply vote your conscience. It’s OK. Take care.”
But the vote didn’t end the day’s drama. On Friday evening, 9News confirmed that Lebsock changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in the late hours of the afternoon. This leaves lawmakers scrambling to determine which party is set to pick his replacement.