After months of protests, political pressure and public scrutiny, most lawmakers accused of inappropriate sexual contact would have voluntarily resigned and quietly exited the political arena in an attempt to preserve the last shred of dignity they had left.
But not Steve Lebsock.
Instead, the Thornton Democrat has mounted a fierce campaign countering allegations of impropriety made by fellow House Democrat Faith Winter, who alleges that Lebsock described sexual acts the two could do to each other and grabbed her elbow to get her to leave with him during a 2016 party at Stoney’s Bar & Grill, where legislators were drinking and celebrating the end of the legislative session. Lebsock publicly apologized after the allegations went public, saying he didn’t recall ever saying anything inappropriate.
Holly Tarry, a former animal-welfare lobbyist, and Cassie Tanner, a former legislative aide, also came forward with accounts of sexual harassment, while nine other women gave anonymous accounts of suffering sexual harassment at the hands of Lebsock.
The governor, the lieutenant governor and House Speaker Crisanta Duran — all ranking Democrats — swiftly called for his resignation after the allegations surfaced publicly in November, and legislators in Lebsock's own party have considered expelling him from the House because he resisted a chorus of calls to resign. At least 32,000 people signed a petition, and a rally was held at the Capitol to urge his resignation.
But that chorus only served to solidify Lebsock's conviction that the Democratic Party has it out for him and that he’s the victim of wild accusations.
“Imagine that it was you being falsely accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment, and it’s false,” Lebsock says. “Imagine if it was your mom or your dad or your son or your daughter being falsely accused of sexual harassment. You’d want to fight back, right? Because it’s not true.”
In his latest attempt to supposedly put to rest the “false allegations,” Lebsock published a YouTube video on January 10 titled “The true story of Colorado State Rep Steve Lebsock and the false allegations against him.”
The video seems to be aiming for that solemn60 Minutes
feel, but instead shows Lebsock rambling for thirteen minutes while looking off camera, with intermittent cuts to photos of himself and screenshots of related news stories. He proclaims that he is the victim of a vicious two-party system that will bulldoze anyone who gets in the way of sweet victory, and he just happened to be on the wrong side of the fence.
According to Lebsock, the bad blood with Winter started way back in the day, when Lebsock says he declined Winter’s alleged invitation to join him in a hot tub because “she was a married person at the time and so was I. I could tell weeks later, months later, even a year later, she was embarrassed by that.”
(A Lakewood Democrat said the incident took place at a 2015 retreat for House Democrats, where several representatives soaked in a hot tub together as a group.)
And, Lebsock continues, that festering guilt and the embarrassment of being declined his company in a hot tub supposedly started Winter on this bitter path toward vengeance.
The supposed bitterness came to a head after Lebsock refused to back Winter for her bid as House majority leader, instead supporting current majority leader KC Becker, who was elected to the leadership position in late 2016.
Lebsock alleges that Winter instigated this “coordinated smear campaign,” a phrase he has used in his tweets, because she was paranoid that Lebsock wanted to run for Senate District 24, which encompasses both of their districts, and implying she was motivated to politically take him out to have the seat to herself.
While it’s true that Winter is running for that Senate seat this year, the problem is that Lebsock is running for state treasurer, which isn’t even in the same branch of government. Lebsock even announced his bid for the executive branch post in March, months before Winter announced her bid for the Senate, and long before Winter’s account of sexual harassment went public in November.
Lebsock tries to make himself appear approachable, a typical dude who is being politically assassinated by the powers-that-be at the Capitol. It seems to be an attempt to tap into an undercurrent of populist support and political cynicism that swept a candidate like Donald Trump into office. He puts forward his credentials: a fourth-generation Coloradan and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who spent eight years working in a factory. A man who got into politics to help the little guy.
“I knew right away that I would be able to represent Colorado and Coloradoans [sic] and not be bought," he said in the video. "I’ll vote the right way every single time. I’m not just going to tow the party line. I’m not perfect; we don’t need perfect politicians. We just need someone to stand up and fight for us, and I’m willing to do that, and that’s the reason I got into politics.”
But the video ignores the allegations of two other women, Tarry and Tanner. When the video was made, Lebsock only faced two formal complaints, from Winter and Tarry. After he decided to comment again, on January 14, this time on Twitter, to claim that Tanner was lying and that’s why she didn’t formally complain, Tanner filed the third formal complaint of sexual harassment against Lebsock. She claims that Lebsock unbuttoned the top of her blouse at a Colorado Young Democrats event in 2014.
He took to Twitter to defend himself, saying that the Democrats will “double down and triple down” on their attacks against him, something he also says in the video.
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There might be a small grain of truth to what Lebsock says about Democrats potentially killing his bills in retaliation. He sponsored a bill this session to fix the marijuana tax error, an issue that Democrats fiercely supported in the special session last year but failed to achieve. But no other House or Senate members — Republican or Democrat — have signed on to support the bill.
Lebsock isn't the only member of the General Assembly with tales of sexual harassment. Republican senators Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate are both facing claims of sexual harassment.
From his #28pagedossier to analogies of being a modern-day Martin Luther King Jr., Lebsock thinks he’s carrying the torch of righteousness up a mountain of tribulation. This quote, which he ended his YouTube testimony with, perfectly caps this saga.
“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”