The Colorado Senate on Monday rejected a resolution to expel Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.
Baumgardner was investigated for sexual misconduct based on allegations made by a former legislative aide that were found credible by a third-party investigation. The resolution read Monday said Baumgardner allegedly grabbed and smacked an aide’s buttocks multiple times during the 2016 legislative session.
The tone during Monday’s debate was far more business-like than last month’s emotionally-charged deliberations in the House that ended with then-state Rep. Steve Lebsock’s expulsion.
Deliberations on Monday lasted more than three hours. Baumgardner, who was among the last lawmakers to speak, offered only brief remarks. He said it was “torture” to hear the allegations against him and said he has apologized for things he said that made people feel uncomfortable.
“With very few exceptions, this has been the most difficult and humbling experience of my life,” Baumgardner said.
Republicans control the Senate with an 18-16 majority. (State Sen. Cheri Jahn is an independent; she was formerly a Democrat.) A vote for expulsion required a two-thirds majority. The final vote was a 17-17 tie. Baumgardner abstained. Republican Sen. Ray Scott voted yes, joining the Democrats who also voted to expel Baumgardner.
There are two more investigations pending against Baumgardner, Democratic state Sen. Irene Aguilar said during Monday’s session. They include an allegation of sexual comments made toward a female staffer.
Kjersten Forseth, a political strategist in Colorado, identified herself as one of Baumgardner’s accusers on Twitter during the deliberations.
Baumgardner allegedly told an aide, “You look extremely sexy today,” according to the resolution read out loud by Aguilar to begin deliberations. The resolution said Baumgardner behaved inappropriately and his conduct reflected poorly on the state. The resolution also said Baumgardner failed to take responsibility for its action.
“Today, I choose to believe the victims,” Aguilar said before calling for a roll call vote.
Democratic senators stood while the resolution, which was originally introduced in February, was read. At least two senators called on Baumgardner to resign, including Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Lucia Guzman.
The first Republican spoke after about two hours. Sen. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, said he was concerned about the investigation, the charges and due process. He was followed by Republican Majority Whip Sen. John Cooke, who also questioned the investigation.
Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican, said just before the vote that bringing such matters to the Senate was the responsibility of the entire body, whether or not they agreed or disagreed on them.
“I can speak (only) for my vote,” Grantham said. “And my vote is going to be against this resolution. If we were going to send a message, it’ll be one that demands for the highest level of accountability and it should demaned a high level of evidence. And we do not have that.”
The Senate’s debate comes amid a renewed focus on alleged misbehavior from elected officials and victims galvanized by the #MeToo movement across the country. The movement has been consequential in Colorado.
Last month, the House voted to expel Lebsock, a former Democrat, after allegations of sexual misconduct made by multiple women, including state Rep. Faith Winters. It was the first time in more than 100 years that a member of the Colorado General Assembly was expelled.
Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has faced calls for resignation after he admitted in February to sending inappropriate text messages to a police officer formerly in his security detail. Allegations of unwanted advances made against Republican state Sen. Jack Tate were also found to be credible, while allegations of improper touching by Democratic state Rep. Paul Rosenthal were brought to the House’s attention but later dismissed in January.