The Colorado House expelled one of its members over sexual harassment accusations on Friday in a vote so fraught that two representatives said they wore bulletproof vests.
It was the first time in over a century that the state’s House of Representatives has expelled a member.
Former Democratic state Rep. Steve Lebsock, who switched to the Republican Party an hour before the decision, was expelled in a 52-9 vote, The Denver Post reported. Three women, including a member of the state House, have accused Lebsock of sexual harassment and filed formal complaints against him, but he also faces anonymous allegations.
Before the vote, two state lawmakers revealed that they were wearing bulletproof vests to protect themselves from Lebsock.
Lebsock “threatened to ‘take me down,’” said state Rep. Alec Garnett (D), assistant state House majority leader.
“I fear for retaliation. I am in the chamber of the House of Representatives, and I’m wearing a bulletproof vest because I fear retaliation for telling the truth and standing up for victims of sexual harassment,” Garnett added. “I’ve been wearing it for three weeks.”
State Rep. Matt Gray (D) also said he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
State Rep. Faith Winter (D), one of the women accusing Lebsock of harassment, first contacted Garnett for help in 2016, he said. She accused Lebsock of using explicit and suggestive language in a sexual proposition, and said he became angry when she turned him down, according to The Denver Post.
An emotional Lebsock pleaded not to be expelled before the vote. He also said he would have protected members, not harmed them.
“I am an honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran,” he said tearfully. “And if someone walked in here — members, you would have had me here to protect you. Even the ones that don’t like me. I’m just hoping you know that.”
State House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D) had informed the Colorado State Patrol, which provides security for the House, that there could be trouble, The Denver Post reported.
“I am just so happy that this chamber took action,” Winter said after Lebsock’s ouster, Colorado Public Radio reported. “Today’s vote was a courageous vote.”