Colorado Republican lawmakers accused of sexual advances deny allegations

Sens. Baumgardner and Tate accused in KUNC report

DENVER – Two more Colorado lawmakers were accused of sexual harassment in a report published Thursday night by KUNC.

The allegations against state Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate, both Republicans, come amid accusations of sexual harassment or advances made against two other state lawmakers in the past week, though no formal complaints against Baumgardner or Tate had been filed as of Friday.

A former intern told KUNC Baumgardner would pressure her to drink with him inside his Capitol office and made other unwanted comments. 

A Democratic legislative aide told KUNC’s Bente Birkeland that Tate also made unwanted advances toward an unnamed intern. Birkeland’s reporting was corroborated by several other people who declined to speak on the record.

In a statement to Denver7, Tate, who chairs the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee, said he wasn’t aware of any time he had harassed anyone or made anyone feel uncomfortable.

“I’m not aware of any instance in which I made an individual feel uncomfortable. In my 3 years at the Capitol, no person has ever complained or brought to my attention that I caused discomfort of any kind. Had anyone related to me that I was making a team member feel uncomfortable, I would have addressed the matter at that time,” Tate said. 

“I value my relationships at the workplace and have the utmost respect for the many men and women with whom I work on a daily basis,” he continued. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and associates in a positive way as we continue forward.”

In a statement forwarded by Tate's spokesperson from lobbyist Micki Hackenberger, president of Axiom Strategies, Inc., to Denver7, the latter praised Tate's “service and integrity” and said he “truly wants what’s best for Colorado.”

Baumgardner, who chairs the Senate's Transportation and Capital Development committees, indirectly denied the allegations, and said he carries himself in line with the Legislature’s code of conduct.

In a statement provided to Denver7 by a Senate Republican spokesman, Baumgardner said:

“I always aim to conduct myself in an honorable, above-board manner that will make my constituents proud, and it has never been my intent to make anyone in this building uncomfortable. I have nothing but respect for my female colleagues, and for the women I work with regularly on staff, in the lobby and in the press corps.”

After the latest accusations were made public Thursday night, Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, asked anyone making sexual harassment allegations to file formal complaints so they can be properly investigated.

In a statement, Grantham said:

“We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, which the existing complaint process is designed to handle. This process exists to protect confidentiality, respect the rights of both accuser and accused, rigorously review the facts, give a fair hearing to all sides, and impose penalties proportionate to any confirmed offense. To handle these matters in any other way contradicts the basic tenants of fairness, justice, and due process for which America is known."

In a story Birkeland and KUNC first reported last week, Rep. Faith Winter accused fellow Democrat Rep. Steve Lebsock of making unwanted advances toward her after the 2016 legislative session. Lebsock has repeatedly denied the allegations amid calls for his resignation from some of the state’s top Democrats, and Winter has filed a formal complaint against him.

Another formal complaint was filed against Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, this week. In that complaint, a young man accused Rosenthal of groping him at a political fundraiser that predated Rosenthal’s time in office. Rosenthal also denied the allegations.

Both Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, have called for a review of the sexual harassment reporting policies at the Capitol.

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Editor's Note: This story originally referred incorrectly to Micki Hackenberger as a spokesperson for Tate. She is a lobbyist for Axiom Strategies who was being quoted by a spokesperson for Tate.

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