Hours before The Los Angeles Times published detail allegations of sexual harassment against him on Monday, California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra announced he won't seek re-election in 2018. Six more women have accused the California politician of sexual harassment over the past few years, after news came out last month that Bocanegra was reprimanded by the state legislature for groping a woman in 2009. Bocanegra did not deny the new allegations of sexual harassment to The L.A Times. Bustle has reached out to his office for comment.
Sylvia Castillo, a woman who had worked with Bocanegra in the past, was among the six women who spoke to The L.A. Times. Castillo alleged that Bocanegra assaulted her at a bar in 2010. "He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head and shoved his tongue into my mouth," she told The L.A. Times. "With his other hand, he put it up my dress. I put my hand down to stop him from trying to grab at my crotch."
The same morning that report was to go live, Bocanegra announced he wouldn't seek re-election and would immediately step down as Democratic majority whip. "I spent my life advocating for the Northeast Valley, fighting for a fair share for our communities and residents," his statement read. "It is because of my deep commitment to you, residents of the 39th Assembly District, that I have made the decision to resign from the State Assembly, effective September 1, 2018, and immediately resign my leadership position. I am also suspending my campaign and will not run for re-election."
Bocanegra cited the sexual harassment allegations as his reason for stepping down and reportedly asked California’s Assembly Rules Committee to investigate. He told The L.A. Times: "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."
In 2009, Elise Flynn Gyore alleged Bocanegra (who was chief of staff to an assemblyman at the time) groped her at the same bar he allegedly assaulted Castillo the following year. "He menaced me that evening," she told The L.A. Times this year. In a statement to The L.A. Times last month, Bocanegra responded to Gyore's allegation, saying, "This unfortunate experience I was involved in as a staffer nearly 10 years ago was something I regret and learned from."
He added that he will work to make sure "all processes involving sexual harassment" are handled fairly and that no victim will face retaliation for reporting. "Again," Bocanegra said, "I’m deeply regretful about putting someone in this position and I want to apologize most sincerely."
Bocanegra was prohibited from any communications with Gyore and the committee promised to take "additional appropriate action to help ensure there are no recurring issues," though it's unclear what further actions were taken, if any. The alleged incident wasn't publicized at the time, but was investigated by independent attorneys hired by the legislature. A letter from the Assembly Rules Committee says the attorneys concluded "it is more likely than not that Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly’s expectations for professionalism."
Now one month later, six different women have come forward about similar alleged behavior from Bocanegra. The women allege the assemblyman touched them without consent and sent inappropriate emails to a junior staffer.
California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement that should an independent investigation confirm the new sexual harassment allegations, he would immediately expel Bocanegra from the assembly. "The entire Capitol community should recognize the strength and resolve of the women who came forward," Rendon said. "I hope more women will share any sexual harassment or abuse they have experienced. The Assembly will take those complaints seriously.