Key California Lawmaker Steps Down Amid Harassment Claims

The state assemblyman announced Monday he'll resign immediately.

California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Los Angeles), stripped of his leadership post after multiple allegations of sexual harasssment, announced Monday he’ll resign effective immediately.

“By doing so I hope the community will have a new representative sooner rather than later,” Bocanegra wrote on his Facebook page. “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.”

Bocanegra’s resignation came one week after he said he’d resign at the end of his term. Some colleagues called on Bocanegra to step down immediately rather than wait nearly a year to do so.

Bocanegra, who had been the Assembly’s majority whip, has been accused of harassment by seven women in recent weeks. The Los Angeles Times on Monday reported the stories of six women who say he made unwanted sexual advances during his career as a Sacramento staffer and lawmaker. And in October, a longtime Capitol staffer said Bocanegra, when he also was a legislative office worker, groped her in 2009. Bocanegra was disciplined following a human resources probe.

The assemblyman announced he would bow out of the 2018 race shortly before the LA Times published its story.

“As you may know, news stories were reported a few weeks ago about a regrettable encounter when I was a legislative staffer 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,” Bocanegra said in his 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.”

The additional allegations have cost Bocanegra the support of some of his colleagues.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, also a Los Angeles Democrat, called the claims detailed in the LA Times piece “extremely disturbing,” and said he was removing Bocanegra from his leadership post and committee assignments while an independent investigator probes the allegations.

“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.

Others called on Bocanegra to step down immediately, among them Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales (D-San Diego) and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who serves as chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who describes Bocanegra as a friend, echoed those calls.

“Once and for all, it’s time to say this behavior is unacceptable. We cannot allow people in public office to repeatedly abuse their positions to sexually harass and assault others. That’s why I am calling on Assemblyman Bocanegra to immediately resign his office,” Martinez said.

The California statehouse has been rocked by multiple allegations of harassment assault and misconduct since October, when more than 100 women came forward with stories of mistreatment while working in state politics. Both the Assembly and state Senate are investigating.

Other state-level legislators across the country have been swept up in similar allegations in recent weeks. Another California Democrat, state Sen. Tony Mendoza, was suspended from his committee posts following multiple claims of harassment from former employees. Colorado state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, has been pressed to resign over accusations he pressured women to have sex with him. In Ohio, state Rep. Wesley Goodman (R), a “family values” champion, resigned after allegations that included groping an 18-year-old college student. And at least six women have accused Florida Sen. Jack Latvala (R) of inappropriate touching and making comments about their bodies.

This article has been updated to reflect Bocanegra’s announcement that he would resign immediately.

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