Sen. Randy Baumgardner prevails in Senate vote on expulsion

Authors: Joey Bunch, Marianne Goodland - April 2, 2018 - Updated: April 4, 2018

harassmentColorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, looks on during a debate on the chamber’s floor about a Democratic resolution calling for Baumgardner’s expulsion April 2 in the state Capitol in Denver. Baumgardner is accused of inappropriately touching a former legislative aide. (Photo by David Zalubowski/AP)

DENVER — The Colorado Senate tied 17-17 over whether to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner Monday night, falling seven votes short of the two-thirds needed to remove him.

The Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs is accused by a former legislative aide who said he “grabbed and slapped her buttocks on four separate occasions” during the legislative session two years ago, according to the resolution to expel him. Baumgardner denies the charges.

Baumgardner spoke out in his own defense. He said he has not done so before because he believed in the confidentiality of the process.

“With very few exceptions, this has been the most difficult and humbling experience of my life,” he said three hours into the debate. “It has been torture to hear accusations made that I could not answer.”

He said the only good to come from the process was that “it has made me want to look in the mirror” to make sure his conduct does not offend anyone. He continued to deny putting his hands on anyone.

“It’s been hard to see this issue get in the way of the important work we have to do here,” Baumgardner said.

Baumgardner was re-elected to a final four-year term in 2016.

Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, voted with the Democrats to expel Baumgardner, and Sen. Cheri Jahn, who left the Democratic Party to become unaffiliated in December, voted with the Republicans.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, introduced the resolution to expel him. “We are here today to discuss the dignity and integrity of the Senate and the rights, reputation and conduct of one of our members,” she said as the hearing began.

Aguilar pushed back on any suggested that the allegations were politically motivated. “If that helps you sleep at night, that’s your conscience,” she said.

Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said the investigative report against Baumgardner was laden with speculation and hearsay. He called the debate “somewhat of a public lynching.”

“I don’t think the preponderance of evidence is there,” Coram said. “I’m concerned about the charges, but I’m also concerned about due process.”

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a former Weld County sheriff, said in his 35 years in law enforcement he investigated more than 1,000 cases, including homicides, rapes and hundreds of cases involving sexual assaults on children. He called the report on the credibility of Baumgardner’s denial “anything but credible.”

“If a deputy of mine would have turned in this investigation, he probably wouldn’t have been a deputy much longer, especially in a case as important as this,” Cooke said.

An independent investigation deemed the accuser to have more credibility than Baumgardner, who came off as angry and defensive in the interview.

Two other complaints against Baumgardner concerned events that allegedly happened in 2016  “creating an offensive and hostile” work environment, and those cases are under investigation. According to KUNC, Baumgardner has yet to agree to an interview for the investigation, although the report is due to be completed next week.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, asked fellow senators to think about what they stand for.

“We are not all guilty of sexual harassment, but as we dismiss these allegations and do not take a stand tonight, we dismiss all the people who have felt the pain of being belittled by the power move that is sexual harassment,” she said.

She added, “This vote bears the weight of your legacy.”

A hearing for expulsion is rare, but it’s the second this session in Colorado. State Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton was voted out of the House 52-9, a month ago from Monday.

Lebsock switched from Democrat to Republican less than an hour before the vote. Lebsock was accused of 11 instances of inappropriate behavior by five women, including state Rep. Faith Winter, a fellow Democrat from Westminster.

Winter is running for Senate this year against incumbent Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton in Senate District 24, a seat that could hold the key to Democrats overtaking Republicans’ current one-seat majority in the upper chamber.

Humenik voted against expulsion Monday night.

After the vote, she told Colorado Politics that the Senate was asked to be a judge and jury. “I re-read the report many times. As a juror, there wasn’t enough evidence. You have to have evidence, and to say without a reasonable doubt, that someone is guilty or not.”

Martinez Humenik said what she saw in the report was “perceptions” that became the subject. As to how the people in her district are likely to view her vote, she said she hoped the people in her district “see that I was doing what any good juror would do — look at the evidence and make a decision based on that.” She said she would still encourage those who believe they’ve experienced sexual harassment to come forward, and pointed out that she had shared her own story of harassment during a #MeToo rally last November.
Sens. Lois Court of Denver and Nancy Todd of Aurora, both Democrats, told Colorado Politics that the vote’s outcome was not a surprise. “Had this been dealt with in a mature way at the beginning,” Todd said, “it would never have escalated” to what happened Monday night.
Is it now over? Court said it felt that way, “but we’ll see.” Todd added that the process is clearly broken. “I wouldn’t recommend my granddaughters work at the capitol right now,” she said.

So far in the session, six male legislators have been accused of misbehavior, three Democrats and three Republicans.

Complaints already have been settled involving Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver and Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial. Both denied the allegations.

In remaining cases, Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, is accused of touching Rep. Susan Lontine on the buttocks on the House floor in 2014 and telling what Lontine perceived to be an off-color joke last year.

Senate Republicans have accused Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, of using the women’s restroom near the Senate floor, which Kagan said he did by mistake when he was a new senator because the doors aren’t marked. The doors have since been labeled.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.

One comment

  • Joan b.

    April 3, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    There needs to be a trial in these instances of sexual misconduct. No one should be able to be railroaded with out a trial. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Hear say and circumstantial evidence doesn’t fly. Or it shouldn’t. People’s lives can be ruined. if they are proven guilty that takes care of that. People lie. People get paid to lie. Vindictive people lie. No one should be ruined without a trial.

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