In an interview Friday morning with the Independent, mayoral candidate Steve Bach categorically denied accusations of spousal abuse made by his first wife, Marian Volk and published in today's Gazette.
"These allegations are utterly unfounded," he said. "The timing, five days before the election, is curious. I haven't talked to her (Volk) for decades. I have no feelings of anger toward her - I hope that she has a great life."
(Indy reporter J. Adrian Stanley did talk to Marian Volk on Friday, and you can find that interview on the Indy's blog or here.)
Rumors concerning the matter had circulated for months, thanks to anonymous letters enclosing copies of a 1969 divorce decree citing "physical and mental cruelty" as grounds for the split, and also alleging that both his first and second wife had sought restraining orders against him.
The Independent, in common with other media, had not publicized the allegations. For one thing, they were anonymous; for another, Steve Bach had addressed them in what appeared to be a forthright and honest manner.
A month ago, Bach explained during an interview with the Indy editorial board, there was no such thing as "no fault divorce" in 1969. Grounds had to be cited, and "mental and physical cruelty" was the most common. Bach supplied paperwork that confirmed his statements, as well as an email from his second wife in which she denied ever having taken out a restraining order, or having experienced abuse during their marriage.
At that time, Bach said that he had had no contact with his first wife since their divorce, nearly 42 years ago.
In fact, Volk moved back to Colorado Springs two years ago. She has taken more than a passing interest in the mayoral campaign.
On Feb. 24, she posted a derisive comment on the Gazette’s website about her former spouse:
February 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm
"I fully expected this self exalted 6-foot-5 bag of hot air to be better prepared, thanks to many of his peons and financial backers but he totally dropped the ball during the debate. He would be better qualified to answer questions concerning domestic violence, ethical behavior as a husband and 'transparent' mayor-to-be."
She has indicated in emails to others that she was also the source of the anonymous letters directed to the media. In addition, she contacted the campaigns of at least two of Bach's rivals. Receiving no response, she decided to go public. This email, which was apparently directed to an unidentified mayoral candidate, reached the Independent on Tuesday, March 29.
Here it is, in its entirety:
"I think that I have written you and your campaign previously but I would like to give you another little 'heads up' on one of your competitors. I was Mr. Bach's first wife and I can attest to the fact that he repeatedly beat me for the nine long months that we were married. His history of domestic violence dates back to 1968 and while some may ask how this is relevant 40+ years later, I would suggest that a person's character never changes. What surprises me is that he has the audacity to run for any public office considering his background. I have the copy of our divorce decree which clearly states that 'mental and physical cruelty' on his part was the reason for our separation. Wife number 2 filed a restraining order against him which (at the very least) shows poor impulse control and disregard for women in general. Domestic abuse is a crime of control, power and an attempt to create horrible fear in the victim. As the victim I can tell you that he beat me and humiliated me until 'I' was no longer there. He hit me so hard that he bent his wedding band, beat me so badly on the honeymoon that I used every towel in the room to stop the bleeding; would pound on me and then crawl into a corner and cry and threaten suicide, spit toothpaste in my hair after a dinner we had to attend in Ohio, accused me and my older brother of being sexually involved. I could go on and on with situations much worse than these but I think that you get the idea.
"It appears to me that everyone running has pulled in their tents and given up. I emailed both Mitch Christiansen and Phil McDonald and they asked to meet me. I think that they did not believe my claims or that I was a bitter ex wife. I am happily married to a good ole Colorado cowboy and can back up my tales concerning Steve. They tried to make excuses for him (drinking? young and blowing off steam? etc etc) but stuck with the party line that a Republican HAD to be in office because we could not allow Mr. Skorman to win as he would back gays and lesbians. This was supposed to be a non-partisan race and clearly, behind closed doors, it is anything but that.
"I would encourage you to step up your campaign these last few days. I know how time consuming this all must be but Steve Bach is a ruthless person. There were no domestic violence laws in place in 1968-69 otherwise he would have been in jail. Is this really the best that Colorado Springs has to offer??
Best regards, Marian Volk
The email ignited furious maneuvering. On Tuesday afternoon, Bach says, Brian Bahr’s campaign managers Kyle Fisk and Patrick Davis showed up unannounced at Steve Schuck’s office to show him the email.
Schuck, a key supporter who has known and worked with Bach for four years, was nonplussed.
"That's not the Steve Bach I know," he reportedly said.
Although none of the three participants would comment on the record, it's clear that Fisk and Davis sought to assure Schuck that Bahr's campaign had nothing to do with the email. And it's just as clear that they suggested that Bach consider withdrawing immediately if Volk's allegations had any factual basis.
Bach, in the interview today, isn't convinced that they have clean hands.
"The email was forwarded from the same source as the previous ones," he says. "It's all unfounded - there were no restraining orders, no abuse you have the documents. I find it all very troubling, and I think that the two individuals who you mentioned before (Davis and Fisk) may be behind this."
Yet, unanswered questions remain.
Forty-two years may seem like a lifetime, but there may be a substantial number of people who knew the young Steve Bach and his then-wife. Someone may come forward to confirm Volk's story. If that someone seems credible, game over.
And it's a deadly serious, high-stakes game.
Consider the possible outcomes.
If no mayoral candidate gets a majority on April 5, we'll have a runoff culminating May 17, six weeks later.
Skorman-Bach? If so, Steve Bach's campaign may be fatally crippled by these accusations. Even without corroboration, it'll be very difficult for Bach to convert folks who didn't vote for him in the first round to support him in the second.
Skorman-Bahr? Bahr, a candidate thus far untainted by scandal, could rally conservatives and perhaps have a better shot at being elected than a wounded Steve Bach.
Bach? A first-round win by Bach, while unlikely, is hardly unimaginable. The new mayor would have a difficult time building trust and leading the city.
Conclusion? If you're an aspiring politician, you can expect negative publicity. It's easy enough to counter most of it; Bach, for example, has been accused of dyeing his hair. Short answer: That's what they said about Reagan. But vivid and specific allegations of abuse from a former wife are essentially unanswerable.
Judging from scores of comments on the Gazette website, Colorado Springs voters will base their decisions not on the facts but on their own prejudices.
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