#MeToo in the #COleg
It’s a mess. Ever since #MeToo hit the internet, accusations are flying, reputations are at stake, partisanship is competing with justice, and politics is even more of a mess than usual. Or is it?
Let’s take a look at how #MeToo might have gotten women talking to each other about sexual assault—and recognizing patterns of harassment in the Colorado State House of Representatives. Here are the major players:
The On-Record Survivor: Rep. Faith Winter (D)
The Accused: Rep. Steve Lebsock (D)
The Ally: Rep. Alec Garnett (D)
The Leadership: House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D)
Bente Birkeland of KUNC broke the story on November 10 with an excellent piece that deserves a full read or listen.
Notably, Rep. Winter spoke on the record, along with corroborating on-the-record support from Alec Garnett. But several other accusers spoke both on and off the record, the latter citing fear of career-damaging retaliation.
Some might argue that the survivors’ accusations are damaging the career of Rep. Lebsock. Ten women say that Lebsock harassed them on the job. Rep. Crisanta Duran immediately removed Lebsock from his post as chair of the local Government Committee, but no other damage to Lebsock’s career appears to have occurred. He announced on November 28 that he has no intention of resigning, insinuating that Rep. Winter's account is not accurate. His candidacy is still active for State Treasurer against a number of challengers including Democrats Dave Young and Bernard Douthit, and Republicans Brett Barkey, Justin Everett, Brita Horn, Polly Lawrence, Kevin Lundberg, and Brian Watson.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Will Rep. Winter's reputation be damaged while Rep. Lebsock continues to seek statewide office, possibly even defeating female candidates? Which is more important, the accusations of harassment or Lebsock's 100% rating from the Women's Lobby of Colorado? Is that a false choice? What will future representatives and candidates make of whatever happens next?
The beauty of democracy is that you decide for yourself. Then, act accordingly. Call up your Senators and Representatives (no matter their party) and voice your concerns. Find out where they stand on women's issues and sexual harassment. Then decide which 2018 candidates are deserving of your time, talent and treasure. There are more than a handful from which to choose.
Update Dec. 15, 2017: Last week the Women's Lobby of Colorado's released an open letter to Rep. Lebsock regarding their position on sexual harassment generally and Steve Lebsock specifically:
"The Women's Lobby of Colorado is an issue-based nonprofit organization. We do not have a political organization or PAC, we do not endorse candidates, and we do not give campaign contributions. Our scorecards are merely an account of how all 100 legislators voted on 10-12 pieces of legislation in a given legislative session that chosen by our members to represent the important issues facing women and families in Colorado. This record should not be taken as a broader statement about our organization’s support of the individual - personally or professionally - as a legislator. Your continued reference of our scorecard for your personal propaganda promotes, publicizes, and politicizes the very attitudes that allow sexual violence to continue to permeate our work environments and culture as a whole. Our scorecard rating of you or any other legislator is not a trophy to be weighed AGAINST the truthfulness of the women speaking out against sexual harassment."
Please read the full letter here.