Call it the revenge of #MeToo. Mere weeks after the resignation announcement of Colorado Senator Daniel Kagan, a Democrat targeted by an investigation over his repeated use of a woman's bathroom at the State Capitol, Republican Senator Randy Baumgardner, who survived an expulsion vote over sexual harassment allegations earlier this year, revealed that he, too, will be stepping down, effective January 21.
Baumgardner's resignation letter, on view below in its entirety, avoids mentioning the charges made against him — among them, that he'd grabbed and slapped the buttocks of a former legislative aide on four occasions. But he alludes to them by referencing stress on his loved ones in this passage: "My family's resilience and love have given me the grace to continue forward under the most difficult of circumstances and in light of new opportunities, I must put them first in order to fulfill my obligations as a father and as a husband."
Also accessible here is a January 2018 report that looked at the grabbing-and-slapping assertions. Other sexual-harassment complaints made against Baumgardner included allegedly inappropriate sexual comments made to a former intern for another lawmaker and a claim by a male employee that unwanted attention the senator repeatedly lavished on a female staffer had created a hostile work environment.
The latter accusations were still under investigation at the time of the expulsion hearing, which Baumgardner survived because of support from party members. All sixteen Colorado Senate Democrats called for his ouster, but only one Republican joined them — and 24 votes, representing two-thirds of the chamber, were required for Baumgardner to be sent packing.
In his testimony, Senate President Kevin Grantham said that the penalty was too harsh given what he considered to be a low standard of evidence. "I can speak for my vote — and my vote is going to be against this resolution," he said. "If we were going to send a message, let it be one that demands for the highest level of accountability that it should demand a high level of evidence, and we do not have that. We demand accountability, agreed. That accountability has to be based on something, some level of reality, some level of facts that are evidence, something we can point to that says, 'Yes, that happened.'"
Granted, there were no witnesses to the incidents in question other than Baumgardner and his accuser, and the workplace investigator, a member of the third-party human-resources firm Employer's Council, based the report's conclusions on Baumgardner's supposed lack of credibility. In answering questions about what happened, he was characterized as patronizing and quick-tempered, pretending to be ignorant of the allegations and prone to avoiding straight answers in favor of insisting that he "did not recall anything like that."
"It would be reasonable for someone to not remember something as innocuous as what you ate three weeks ago. It does not seem, to this investigator, to be a reasonable response to 'not recall' when asked if you touched a private part of another person's body. This type of response hinders his credibility," the report's author wrote.
"With very few exceptions, this has been the most difficult and humbling experience of my life. It has been torture to hear accusations made that I could not answer," Baumgardner testified during the hearing. "It has made me look in the mirror a lot harder. It has made me want to make sure that the standards I bring to this work is beyond reproach. ... As I stated in the investigation report, I deny the allegations levied against me. However, as I have done before, I have apologized if I have said anything during my time here that has unintentionally given offense or made someone feel uncomfortable."
After the vote, Baumgardner provided the following statement to Westword: "I’m relieved by the outcome, but it’s not a pleasant experience. I didn’t know what to expect. I just hoped that facts would win out over baseless accusations."
This victory failed to inoculate Baumgardner from future censure, however. Democrats regained control of the Senate in the November election, and while that party's leadership appears willing to give a pass to Representative Jovan Melton, who isn't expected to face an expulsion vote of his own despite two prior domestic-violence episodes that surfaced in recent months, Kagan found himself without the support needed to continue. Baumgardner, meanwhile, had already been stripped of his committee assignments in the wake of a second report about his alleged behavior, leaving him a political dead man walking. In that sense, his resignation was an acknowledgement of the inevitable.
After his letter was made public, even the conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics kicked Baumgardner on the way out the door. A post about the resignation states in part: "It’s about damn time. Look, we weren’t there when Baumgardner allegedly behaved inappropriately. A committee found the allegations to be credible. At the very least, this was a major distraction. At the worst, it allowed a man who behaved badly to continue in his position. We think that our elected officials should represent the best in society, not the worst. It was time for Baumgardner to go."
Continue to read Baumgardner's resignation letter.
Office of the Secretary of the Senate
Colorado State Capitol
200 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80203
Dear Secretary —
It has been the honor of my life to serve the residents of both House District 57 and Senate District 8 over the last ten years. I am humbled by the support I have received in my elections and even more so by those that have been positively affected by legislation I have worked on.
My time in the State Capitol has been rewarding beyond belief as I've had the opportunity to fight for good government, great people, and by far the most glorious State that God gave to the United States.
During my time under the Golden Dome, I've learned many lessons, with none being as important as to always put your family first. My family's resilience and love have given me the grace to continue forward under the most difficult of circumstances and in light of new opportunities, I must put them first in order to fulfill my obligations as a father and as a husband.
To all I have worked with in the State Capitol — House and Senate — I give you my sincere gratitude for the amazing experiences and opportunities that I've had. They will stay with me for the rest of my life.
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Effective on the 21st of January at 12:01 A.M., I hereby retire as a Colorado State Senator for the 8th District. May God continue to bless the United States of America and the great State of Colorado.
With Gratitude —
Colorado State Senator, District 8
Father and Husband
Click to read the Randy Baumgardner investigation report.