Two Dem legislators face calls for ouster after harassment claims

Two Dem legislators face calls for ouster after harassment claims
Democratic state legislators in North Carolina and Colorado are facing calls to resign from office after being accused of sexually harassing multiple women.
In Colorado, state House leaders plan to vote Friday on whether to expel state Rep. Steve Lebsock (D), who stands accused of harassing at least five women on 11 separate occasions.
And in North Carolina, Democratic leaders have encouraged state Rep. Duane Hall (D) to resign his seat after five women told NC Policy Watch, a political news site in Raleigh, that the 51-year old legislator had harassed them.
Lebsock and Hall have both denied the charges against them.
Hall told NC Policy Watch he believes "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that he never harassed anyone during his time as governor.
"I've been single since I got a divorce in 2010," he told the site. "Since I've been at the legislature, I dated several different people, none of whom worked with me in my legislative office or in my legal practice."
"I'm not guilty. I've done nothing wrong. I have never sexually harassed anyone," Lebsock told reporters at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver.
But women around both capitols told a different story. In an interview with The Hill, Colorado state Rep. Faith Winter (D) said that at an end-of-session party in 2016 Lebsock repeatedly asked her to go home with him.
"He and I had a conversation where he repeatedly asked me to leave the bar with him and described in detail sexual acts we would do. I said no five times," Winter said. "He did not take no, and each time I refused him he became angrier and more agitated, stood closer to me. At that point he grabbed my elbow, I stepped back, and he fell on me."
Winter said she reported the incident to House leadership, and leaders talked to Lebsock about his behavior. He promised to quit drinking and to stop harassing women, Winter said. When reports of his behavior came up again, legislative leaders asked Lebsock to resign, and Winter decided to come forward.
In North Carolina, Jessie White, a Democratic campaign aide, said she ran into Hall at a bar in Raleigh. White says Hall said he was looking for a new legislative aide, but that White would have to gain 100 pounds if she wanted the job "because I was too pretty," she told NC Policy Watch.
Two other women said Hall kissed them without consent at events in 2016.
Top North Carolina Democrats, including the chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Hall should leave office.
"The allegations surrounding Representative Duane Hall are serious and the women involved deserve to be heard and supported. He has made unacceptable mistakes in harassing women. Yesterday, I spoke with him and asked him to resign. I think it is right that he step back from public service, work to make amends, and learn from his past mistakes," state House Democratic leader Darren Jackson said in an emailed statement.
If Lebsock is expelled from the legislature, it would be the first time in more than a century that Colorado lawmakers have shown the door to one of their own. But he would not be the first legislator kicked out of office during the "Me Too" movement aimed at giving air to allegations of harassment that has raged through state capitals in recent months.
Arizona representatives voted earlier this month to expel state Rep. Don Shooter (R), who had been accused of harassing more than half a dozen women, including three sitting legislators. California state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D) resigned last week rather than face an expulsion vote he almost certainly would have lost.
Legislators in states including Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Oregon have quit after harassment claims have been raised against them.
The Me Too movement has seen women legislators, lobbyists and staff speaking up about pervasive cultures of harassment in state capitals, spurring rule and policy changes in legislatures across the country. In Colorado, Winter said harassment training is now mandatory every year, and that she expected legislative leaders would back creating an independent office to handle harassment claims.
"Sexual harassment is about power, it's not about sex. And the very nature of our job is to have power and use power," Winter said. "We also don't have a boss. Essentially, the people hold us accountable. It's high cost for victims to come forward, and low consequences for the people that harass."
Lebsock has said he will fight the charges, and the expulsion vote, which requires two-thirds of legislators to vote him out of office. Winter said legislators will be sending a powerful message whichever way they vote.
"If my colleagues fail to vote for expulsion, then it will send a very chilling message to any woman who wants to work in this building in the future," she said.