California lawmaker resigns following misconduct allegations
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra resigned Monday following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, making him the first lawmaker to leave office amid a spate of reports rocking the state Capitol.
The Los Angeles Democrat had previously said he wouldn’t seek re-election and would leave office at the end of the next legislative session. But on Monday, Bocanegra said that he’s decided to leave immediately following reflection over the Thanksgiving weekend and conversations with family, friends and supporters. Multiple women have accused him of kissing or groping them without consent.
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.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to remove Sen. 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. 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.
“I welcome Senate Rules Committee’s decision to seek outside counsel and establish a fair process to evaluate the unsubstantiated allegations against me,” Mendoza said in a statement.
He added that he was ordered by the Senate not to respond to the allegations directly.
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 Democrats Sens. Toni Atkins of San Diego and Connie Leyva of Chino also left without commenting.
Allegations against Bocanegra first came to light last month, when legislative staff member Elise Gyore said she had reported him to Assembly investigators in 2009, when both were staff members, after he stalked her around a nightclub and put his hands down her blouse at an after-work event. He was told to stay away from her but documents do not indicate that he was otherwise disciplined by the Assembly Rules Committee.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Bocanegra is accused of groping or kissing numerous women without their consent over a period of years, even after he was reprimanded for his behavior toward Gyore in 2009.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon had said he would expel Bocanegra if an investigator verifies 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.”
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 was a veteran legislative aide and was seen as a rising star when he was 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.
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.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.