SACRAMENTO (AP) – California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra said Monday that he won’t seek re-election following allegations he sexually harassed a colleague, becoming the first political casualty after a wave of accusations at the Capitol.
Bocanegra, a Los Angeles Democrat, was ordered to stay away from a female colleague, Elise Gyore, in 2009 after she reported he put his hands inside her blouse at an after-work event. He was an Assembly chief of staff at the time and was later elected to the Legislature in 2012.
Gyore recently shared her story publicly for the first time.
Bocanegra said he will immediately step down from his leadership post as majority whip but he plans to remain in office until September 2018. He said he wants to avoid a costly special election or leaving his constituents without representation.
“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 on his Facebook page. “It was a moment that I truly regret, that I am very sorry for, and for which I have accepted responsibility for my actions.
“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 post said.
The announcement comes as the California Capitol grapples with allegations of pervasive sexual harassment, detailed in an open letter last month by nearly 150 women lobbyists, lawmakers and political staff members. It mirrors a national movement of sexual misconduct accusations in politics, entertainment and beyond in the wake of claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Gyore said she didn’t know Bocanegra when he touched her. She said she confirmed his identity and reported the incident, triggering an investigation that concluded it was more likely than not that Bocanegra acted inappropriately.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat and co-chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, tweeted that Bocanegra should step down immediately.
“Don’t wait till 2018. Leave now,” Garcia wrote.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon did not immediately comment.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.