In response to what is now not just one, but several sexual harassment allegations, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra announced Monday, Nov. 20, he would not seek re-election and is suspending his campaign.
Bocanegra said he will leave the 39th District Assembly seat on Sept. 1, 2018, when the current term ends.
But that’s not soon enough for other politicos in his district who are questioning why the Northeast San Fernando Valley Assemblyman should be allowed to remain in office at all.
Action has been swift to separate others in similar circumstances immediately from their jobs, and they point out by allowing Bocanegra to keep his seat for the remaining duration of his term provides a courtesy that can send the wrong message, downplaying the seriousness of sexual abuse and harassment.
San Fernando City Mayor Sylvia Ballin said she, along with Councilmember Joel Fajardo, would present a resolution at the next meeting on Dec. 4 to urge Bocanegra to step down now.
“Councilman Fajardo and I will co-sponsor a resolution calling on Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra to immediately step down,” Ballin said. “We must have confidence in our elected officials and this behavior against women will no longer be tolerated. Accountability applies to every elected official, regardless of the political party they represent – including the President.”
Ballin, a former supporter of Bocanegra, had endorsed him during his last election. Fajardo was a candidate in the 39th District Assembly race who ran against Bocanegra.
In a similar effort, a community meeting, organized by former Assemblymember Patty Lopez is scheduled at Los Angeles Mission College on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m.
“This is a much needed event in light of all the atrocities and abuse toward women that is being exposed at various levels of our society — at the federal level and within private sectors such as the movie industry,” Lopez said. “And now we have the latest revelation of the District 39 State Assemblyman’s sexual harassment toward staff without consequence.”
Lopez upset Bocanegra in the 2014 Assembly race, handing him a surprise defeat, could not compete with his massive political war chest and lost to him in the November 2016 election. She is also calling for Bocanegra to resign now.
“The perpetrators regardless of status must face their actions and the ramifications that follow,” Lopez said, adding it was important to offer support to those who have been affected.
“It’s critical that we seek out how we can help them…they were under psychological abuse and had to remain silent for so long,” she said.
Lopez encouraged others to come forward even if they are afraid of political reprisal, “ The bravery you take to step out and step up will help those who cannot.”
Lopez called this a lesson learned for the communities in the San Fernando Valley who were swayed to vote for him by “hype,” and millions of dollars spent by his campaign used to denigrate her as a female opponent.
Lopez told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that initially she had no plans to run again for that seat, but has received many calls from people wanting her to run, so she is “reconsidering” her decision.
Bocanegra said he sought counsel from community members and constituents and it was prudent for him to stay in office to “avoid another costly special election in Los Angeles and ensure our community is not left without any representation.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said he was removing Bocanegra from his position as majority whip and from all of his committee assignments. He said he also asked Assembly Human Resources officials to reach out to Bocanegra’s office staff to ensure “they feel safe.”
An independent investigation is being conducted into allegations against Bocanegra. Rendon said if following the investigation, the allegations prove to be true, he would move to “to immediately expel Mr. Bocanegra from the Assembly.” He did not say how long that investigation would take or why Bocanegra wasn’t fired in 2009 when a complaint was filed and he was investigated by human resources.
Bocanegra was previously disciplined in 2009 after a female Capitol staffer, Elise Flynn Gyore, reported him for “inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact” while he was a chief of staff to then Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes.
She said at an afterwork event attended by legislators, staff and lobbyists, Bocanegra followed her wherever she went and when he got close enough to her, he reached his hands into her blouse. She was told following the investigation that he was instructed to stay away from her and when she inquired about her safety, she said she was told that, “he learned his lesson.”
Since that complaint has been made public, six more women have now come forward.
Sylvia Castillo described the assault she experienced to the L.A. Times.
“He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head and shoved his tongue into my mouth. With his other hand, he put it up my dress,” Castillo said. “I put my hand down to stop him from trying to grab at my crotch.”