A California state lawmaker has stepped down after multiple women accused him of kissing and groping them without their consent.
State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, a Democrat from Los Angeles, resigned on Monday, making him the first lawmaker to leave office amid a spate of misconduct reports rocking the state Capitol.
Bocanegra had previously said he would leave office at the end of the next legislative session, but on Monday announced that he’s decided to leave immediately following reflection over the Thanksgiving weekend and conversations with family, friends and supporters.
In a statement released by his office, Bocanegra said he’d hoped he could clear his name.
‘But clearly, the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case – to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused,’ he wrote.
‘While I am not guilty of any such crimes,’ he added, ‘I am admittedly not perfect.’
California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, a Democrat from Los Angeles, resigned on Monday, after multiple women accused him of kissing and groping them without their consent
Allegations against Bocanegra first came to light last month, when legislative staff member Elise Gyore (pictured) spoke out publicly about a 2009 report she had filed against him
Allegations against Bocanegra first came to light last month, when legislative staff member Elise Gyore spoke out publicly about a 2009 incident that she had reported to Assembly investigators at the time, she told KCRA.
Both Gorye and Bocanegra were legislative staff members, and she claimed he put his hands down her blouse at an after-work event at a Sacramento nightclub.
He was told to stay away from her but documents do not indicate that he was otherwise disciplined by the Assembly Rules Committee.
Then, last week, the Los Angeles Times reported claims from six women who said that Bocanegra kissed, groped or otherwise harassed them without their consent over a period of years, even after he was reprimanded for his behavior toward Gyore in 2009.
Following that report, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said he would expel Bocanegra if an investigator verified the new allegations.
‘Raul Bocanegra’s resignation underscores the seriousness of the allegations against him,’ Rendon said in a statement. ‘One resignation, however, does not solve the problem.’
Bocanegra was a veteran legislative aide and was seen as a rising star when he was first elected to the Assembly in 2012. He lost to a fellow Democrat, Patty Lopez, two years later before defeating her in 2016. He was the majority whip, a mid-level leadership post in the 80-member Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to remove Senator Tony Mendoza, another Los Angeles-area Democrat, as chair of the Insurance, Banking and Financial Institutions Committee following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward young women who worked for him.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (pictured) has called Mendoza’s behavior deeply troubling but hasn’t called on him to resign. The Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to remove Mendoza as chair of the Insurance, Banking and Financial Institutions Committee
He is accused of inviting one woman over to his home, offering another alcohol when she was 19, and repeatedly holding one-on-one meetings with another over dinner or drinks.
His behavior with two of the women was formally reported. Mendoza has denied offering a staff member alcohol and otherwise said wouldn’t knowingly abuse his authority.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, who shared a Sacramento home with Mendoza until recently, has called Mendoza’s behavior deeply troubling but hasn’t called on him to resign.
He left the committee meeting without commenting. A separate Senate panel will meet Tuesday to interview outside firms to take over all of the Senate’s misconduct investigations, including the one into Mendoza. Fellow Democrat Senators Toni Atkins of San Diego and Connie Leyva of Chino also left without commenting.
An Assembly panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday for the first in a series of public hearings aimed at improving a Capitol culture that women say allows sexual misconduct to go unchecked. The panel is tasked with evaluating the Assembly’s policies and recommending ways to strengthen them.
More than 150 women who work in and around the Capitol – including lawmakers, advisers, lobbyists and political consultants – signed a letter that has pointed a spotlight at what they called a culture of harassment.
Bocanegra will be replaced in a special election. Bocanegra’s resignation temporarily leaves Assembly Democrats one vote shy of a supermajority. They are set to gain it back after a special election in December to replace former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who is now in Congress.
FULL RESIGNATION STATEMENT OF RAUL BOCANEGRA
In announcing my resignation [effective at the end of the legislative term] last week, I had initially wanted to resign from office immediately.
But in speaking with community leaders at the time, I decided it was more important to prevent the Northeast Valley from losing representation and to avoid the significant taxpayer cost of a special election. It was also important to me that I do so in a manner that would not want turn allegations into ‘he said, she said’ stories in the press. I did not want to undermine the credibility of any accusers so that each of us would have access to a fair due process. I believed in our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that the truth would come out clearing my name and reputation. But clearly, the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case – to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused.
Upon further reflection during the recent holiday weekend, and conversations with family, friends, supporters, I have decided to resign earlier from the State Assembly effective immediately, which was my original intention.
By doing so I hope the community will have a new representative sooner rather than later. Furthermore, it is my hope that in taking this action we can help clear the path so that women and men who have been truly victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment can step forward and get justice for any crimes committed against them. While I am not guilty of any such crimes, I am admittedly not perfect.
I sincerely hope that my decision to resign immediately does not embolden those who are using this serious problem in our society to advance their own personal political gain, rather it is my hope that this action can instead help to widen the doors for victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment to find justice and solace.
Lastly, I want to thank my staff for their hard work, tenacity, and dedication to public service.