Los Angeles Democrat won't run again amid harassment claims
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra won't seek re-election following sexual harassment allegations. But some Democratic leaders said Monday he should step down immediately.
Bocanegra, a Los Angeles Democrat, is the first political casualty since a wave of sexual harassment allegations started sweeping the Capitol last month. Members of the California Democratic Party's executive board circulated a petition this weekend calling on Bocanegra and Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia to resign amid accusations against them.
Amar Shergill, the board member who organized the petition, said Bocanegra should resign immediately given the confirmed allegations against him and "what appeared to be very credible indications that more were coming."
"He needs to leave immediately," Shergill said. The California Democratic Party has not formally called on Bocanegra to resign.
Bocanegra said in a Facebook post that he'll immediately resign his leadership post as majority whip. But he will remain in office until September 2018, when the legislative session ends. He said he wants to avoid a costly special election or leaving his constituents without representation.
"These news reports have since fueled persistent rumors and speculation, and I do not believe that this is in the best interest of my constituents to continue to serve next term," he wrote.
Legislative staffer Elise Gyore recently stated publicly that she reported Bocanegra in 2009, when he was an Assembly chief of staff, for stalking her around a Sacramento nightclub and putting his hands down her blouse at an after-work event. He was told to stay away from her but not otherwise disciplined by the Assembly Rules Committee.
"As you may know, news stories were reported a few weeks ago about a regrettable encounter when I was a legislative staffer in 2009," Bocanegra wrote. "It was a moment that I truly regret, that I am very sorry for, and for which I have accepted responsibility for my actions."
California's Capitol has been grappling with allegations of pervasive sexual harassment since last month, when nearly 150 women lobbyists, lawmakers and political staff members published an open letter about it. It mirrors a national movement of sexual misconduct accusations in politics, entertainment and beyond in the wake of claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat and co-chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus, also said that Bocanegra should step down immediately. "Don't wait till 2018. Leave now," Garcia wrote.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon did not comment.
But in Bocanegra's district, local Democratic Party vice chair Sean Rivas said Bocenegra's plan to step down next year is the right move. An immediate resignation, Rivas said, "would actually hurt the district by not having someone there championing the district's needs."
A spokesman for Mendoza did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether he planned to remain in office. He has been accused of behaving inappropriately toward several young women who worked in his office. He denies misconduct.