The #MeToo movement has claimed its first California lawmaker at the state Capitol.
Asm. Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) says he will resign – though not until next September, the day after the Legislature adjourns for the year. He also says he will not seek re-election in his San Fernando Valley district.
Bocanegra’s announcement Monday came just before the Los Angeles Times reported that six women had accused him of sexual harassment. And that report follows the Times’ original story last month where a Capitol staffer accused Bocanegra of groping her nine years ago, when he was a staffer as well.
An Assembly investigation at the time found Bocanegra likely engaged in inappropriate behavior in that 2009 incident, and he was disciplined. Now, after this second story, Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is stripping Bocanegra’s committee assignments and removing him as Majority Whip.
“The decision to deny constituents the representation of their elected official can be a difficult one, but make no mistake: If the investigation affirms the allegations, I will move to immediately expel Mr. Bocanegra from the Assembly,” Rendon said in a statement.
Bocanegra issued a statement that did not directly address the new allegations against him but referred to the previously-reported "regrettable encounter" in 2009.
"It was a moment that I truly regret, that I am very sorry for, and for which I have accepted responsibility for my actions," read the statement. "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."
Bocanegra said resigning earlier than next September would prompt a costly special election.
If an Assembly investigation affirms the allegations, Rendon says he’ll move to expel his colleague. Even if that investigation is ongoing, any Assembly member can seek a suspension or expulsion vote when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
One of the Legislature's leading voices in the #MeToo movement, Asm. Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), said she has no problem with Rendon's position. "He’s trying to make sure we have some sort of due process, and I think that’s very fair," she told Capital Public Radio Monday.
If this were any other job, he would be on leave and the rest of us wouldn’t be subjected to be around him," said Garcia, who chairs the Legislative Women's Caucus.
But she said she does not want to force her colleagues to vote on such a sensitive matter.
"I’d rather put the pressure on Mr. Bocanegra to resign, and to resign immediately," Garcia said. "I don’t understand why he’s going to wait until September, why he has to continue to be on our payroll until September."