State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, nearly expelled over #MeToo allegations, will resign

The rancher from Hot Sulphur springs, the GOP leader on transportation issues, faced allegations of sexual harassment

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, on the Senate floor on March 14. (Photo by John Herrick)

Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who was nearly expelled from the legislature in February over allegations of sexual harassment, announced on Monday he will resign.

The cattle rancher from Hot Sulphur Springs said he will step down on Jan. 21, according to a letter sent to the secretary of the Senate. His second term in the Senate ends in 2021.

Baumgardner said in the letter that it has been the honor to serve in both House District 57 and Senate District 8 over the last 10 years. He was first elected to the state House in 2008 before winning a seat in the state Senate in 2012.

“I am humbled by the support I have received in my elections and even more so by those that have been positively affected by legislation I have worked on,” he said in his letter.

His resignation letter did not state his future plans but indicated he wants to spend time with his family.

“During my time under the Golden Dome, I’ve learned many lessons, with none being more important that always put your family first. My family’s resilience and love have given me the grace to continue forward under the most difficult of circumstances, and in light of new opportunities, I must put them first in order to fulfill my obligations as a father and as a husband.”

He served as Senate majority whip since 2014, when Republicans regained control of the Senate.

Early last session, as the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Baumgardner led Senate Republicans in passing legislation to funnel more money to transportation projects. It was a powerful role in a year when finding money for roads and bridges dominated much of the session.

But on Feb. 13, Baumgardner stepped down as chair of that committee following a third-party investigation that found he “more likely than not” slapped the rear end of a former female aide multiple times during the 2016 session. Baumgardner denied the accusations.

Democrats said the Senate’s Republican leadership didn’t do enough to  reprimand their fellow GOP senator, so Democrats introduced a resolution in February to expel Baumgardner from office. That resolution failed almost entirely along party lines after an April 2 debate.

A subsequent investigation validated two more complaints of sexual misconduct against Baumgardner. One alleged he created a hostile and offensive work environment and another accused him of acting inappropriately when he allegedly made a sexual comment to a former intern and asked her to drink with him in his office.

Senate leadership then stripped Baumgardner of all his summer interim committee assignments.

On Dec. 7, Senate leadership announced new committee assignments. Baumgardner was not named in any of them, prompting some speculation of his resignation.

Baumgardner is the second senator to announce plans to retire this year following allegations of harassment. State Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Cherry Hills Village who was embattled in controversy for using a women’s restroom, announced this month he will resign on Jan. 11.

The state legislature convenes on Jan. 4.

Democrats will control both the House and the Senate.