The Colorado General Assembly has given one of its own the boot and, while that act was clearly necessary and called for, there was much about the process that was frivolous and uncalled for.
Rep. Steve Lebsock no longer represents House District 34 because he was and is unfit to serve. Any man who thinks a woman puts her family through months of grueling campaigning, fundraising, and public exposure because she wants to troll Capitol Hill bars for a boyfriend does not belong behind a desk on the House floor. Lebsock and his constituents need to be told in no uncertain terms that the man is not fit to serve under the Gold Dome, not now and not ever, and it is hoped that his expulsion last Friday sends that clear message.
For her part, Faith Winter, the Adams County Democrat who first reported Lebsock’s propositioning, deserves to continue her legislative career unencumbered by this episode, and should continue to be known as the champion of municipal government and family welfare she has always been. Her bid for a senate seat, already under way, should be defined by her legislative record in the House and nothing else.
Having said that, however, there is much about Friday’s vote to expel Lebsock that was … well, crass, for lack of a better word.
Let’s start with the wearing – and, even more boorishly, the public braying about wearing – bullet-proof vests. Alec Gannett and Matt Gray, both Democrats, claimed they were actually afraid that Lebsock was going to shoot them to death. Apparently, that is now the default connotation of the phrase “I’m going to take you down.” Either Reps. Gannett and Gray have watched too many episodes of “Orange is the New Black” or they have more experience with street gangs than with legislators from rural Colorado. (Yes, I know he represented Thornton, but he grew up out here in the South Platte Valley.)
There are many things that can be done to “take down” an elected official. Reporting his inappropriate sexual advances, for instance. But while Lebsock may be a satyr in a business suit, there is absolutely nothing about the man’s demeanor or history to indicate that he would snipe a fellow solon. I’d suggest that the good representatives try to get their money back on the vests and try to forget the whole thing.
Another legislator talked about his wife’s rape at some time in the past, apparently taking advantage of the emotion of the moment to experience a little more catharsis. I have to wonder how his wife felt about it.
And then there was the hugging and the crying and the hand wringing and the declarations of support and outrage.
Look, a group of the most powerful people in Colorado, a group of people whose actions and, in some cases, inaction every day affect the lives of everyone else in Colorado, a chamber that is supposed to be respected and honored and revered for the incredibly important work done in it, had to evict one of its members for having proven himself unworthy and refusing to leave of his own accord.
Fine, the procedure should have been solemn, graceful, and nearly silent. It should have been clear to everyone that a man so ungracious as to blame others for his own failings wasn’t going to do the right thing. Indeed, even at the end, Lebsock made the childish move of switching his party affiliation to try to punish his fellow Democrats for punishing him. The House needed to be better than that.
Better that the representatives had debated the sole question of Lebsock’s conduct (and there should have been damn little doubt about his conduct by that point) and confined their remarks to that single point (sans references to potential bullet holes in their Men’s Wearhouse suits.) The vote should then have been taken, the session adjourned for the week, and the chamber immediately emptied until Monday morning.
That’s not to deny that firing someone and being fired aren’t emotionally traumatic experiences. But the representatives could have saved the weeping and the hugging and the back-patting and the condoling for the nearest watering hole after the session adjourned. There was a lot of talk Friday about the civility and decorum of the legislative chambers, about the solemnity of the processes and the high standards of personal conduct. But when the vote was in, the solemnity and decorum got duck-walked right out through the tall oak and glass doors and pitched over the brass balustrades onto the Grand Staircase below.
One would have thought someone had died.
If any good comes out of this it will be that the state’s representatives and senators will remember why they are in Denver between January and April every year, and that it has nothing to do with hooking up; not with the legislative assistant, not with the legal council staffer, not with the foxy lawmaker across the way. We can only hope that it’s another 103 years before another legislator is bounced for cause, but if it happens, I sincerely hope it is done with more aplomb, solemnity and decorum than this one.
And that there aren’t any bullet-proof vests bandied about.