SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — A top Democrat in Sacramento is losing support as scrutiny over sexual assault allegations from his past has state lawmakers taking a serious look at his future.
State legislators are feeling the heat to take action after one of their own was accused of groping a colleague nearly a decade ago.
Raul Bocanegra is one of the top Democrats in the California State Assembly, serving as the majority whip. He represents the 39th district, which includes the northeastern San Fernando Valley in Southern California.
Just three years before he was elected to the assembly, Bocanegra worked as a staffer at the capitol. He was ordered to stay away from a female staffer after she claimed he followed her at a work event and grabbed her breast.
Bocanegra went on to be elected to the assembly.
South Bay Congressman Ro Khanna told KPIX 5 Assemblyman Bocanegra has got to go, adding that groping a person is assault.
“He broke the law. And he needs to resign,” said Khanna. “These are crimes. It’s not just a faux pas. And we ought to treat them as crimes.”
Assemblywoman Christina Garcia has made her feelings clear, tweeting, “I refuse to work with @AsmBocanegra and anyone who takes part in harassment or assault. #IStandWithElise.”
State Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo said Bocanegra has to make his own decision about whether to stay in the assembly, but he may find that he can’t do his job
“So I think this is a decision he has to make,” said Hill. “I think it’s becoming more clear that it will be difficult to be effective in the legislature, especially if members are not willing to work with him and not willing to talk with him.”
Bocanegra isn’t just an Assemblyman. He’s also a Democratic Party leader. As the majority whip in the Assembly, it’s his job to make sure democrats vote the party line.
“I think it would be difficult to be in a position of leadership within the house,” said Hill. “That will put some pressure on him and really affect the ability for the house and for the leadership to move forward.”
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin of South San Francisco is also a member of the party leadership. He said Bocanegra’s position is being reconsidered.
“The speaker of the assembly, Anthony Rendon, I know, is reviewing the situation and will be looking at the matter,” said Mullin.
Mullin also says the Democratic Party that endorsed and elevated Bocanegra needs to do some soul searching too.
“We collectively — as a body, particularly as a Democratic Caucus — need to take a hard look at what have been some deficiencies in the process to this point,” said Mullin.
Congressman Khanna agrees the party has to investigate potential harassment issues when vetting candidates
“If someone has had that past, I don’t think they ought to be endorsed by the Democratic Party,” said Khanna.
And Khanna said he would go even further.
“If someone commits sexual harassment and I had endorsed them and it comes out, I would withdraw my endorsement,” he explained.
And that may be already happening.
In September, Bocanegra’s re-election website had tabs for news and a list of endorsements.
On Monday, KPIX 5 found both of those sections were gone.
KPIX 5 reached out to Bocanegra’s campaign, which provided a statement that read in part, “This unfortunate experience I was involved in as a staffer nearly 10 years ago was something I regret and learned from.”