Sexual harassment scandal at state Capitol causing headaches for other state Democrats

Raul BocanegraThe far-reaching reverberations from the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal continue to roil the state Capitol more than two weeks after 147 women released a letter denouncing a culture of pervasive male harassment and abuse in the Legislature.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Daily News published an editorial that said the only sitting lawmaker known to have been formally rebuked for sexual harassment – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles (pictured) – should resign.

“While Bocanegra has apologized for his conduct, we believe the best way for him to serve the public at this point is to resign from office,” the Daily News editorial concluded.

The Los Angeles Times story that revealed Bocanegra’s rebuke could also portend headaches for Democratic lawmakers who knew about the incident that got him in trouble but who either kept quiet or actively helped Bocanegra’s career. The story was based on an interview with his victim, Elise Flynn Gyore, who provided a copy of the Assembly Rules Committee letter rebuking Bocanegra.

The incident that led to the complaint to the Rules Committee came at a 2009 Sacramento event in which Bocanegra – then the chief of staff for then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles – allegedly reached down the blouse of Gyore, then a staffer for state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello. Bocanegra also acted in a way Gyore characterized as stalking.

A subsequent Sacramento Bee story detailed how Bocanegra’s rebuke didn’t get in the way of his political ascent. He was elected to the Assembly in 2012. Among those who helped him with donations or endorsements: then-Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, who served on the Assembly Rules Committee while it reviewed the allegations against Bocanegra, and then-Sen. Calderon, whom Gyore said knew about what Bocanegra had done.

Hall went on to serve in the state Senate before losing a bid for Congress last year. In January, Hall was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, with an annual salary of $142,095. Hall, 45, is expected to seek elected office again in coming years.

Calderon was convicted in 2016 of federal corruption charges and is now serving a 42-month prison sentence.

Gyore is now chief of staff for Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, who has been among the leading advocates in the Legislature for holding lawmakers accountable for their bad behavior.

Villaraigosa, Newsom may face questions over their past scandals

The Bocanegra case has many insiders wondering what California politician might next come under fire for inappropriate behavior or worse. But the increasing focus on politicians’ treatment of and attitudes about women could eventually lead to tough questions for the two Democratic frontrunners to replace termed-out Gov. Brown in the 2018 election.

In 2007, when he was mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa revealed that he was involved romantically with a much-younger TV journalist, leading to his marriage’s collapse and his divorce in 2010.

The Los Angeles Times reported then that Telemundo reporter-anchor Mirthala Salinas, 35, apparently began her affair with Villaraigosa, 54, while she was covering the mayor for her network.

Villaraigosa got remarried in 2016.

Also in 2007, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was involved in a messy office scandal. Alex Tourk, Newsom’s campaign manager and former deputy chief of staff, abruptly resigned “after confronting the mayor about an affair Newsom had with his wife while she worked in the mayor’s office,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Ruby Rippey-Tourk had been Newsom’s appointments secretary for two years.

The New York Times gave national coverage to what it described as “a fast-unfolding scandal with all the sex and betrayal of a tawdry novel,” noting that the affair came while Newsom was “in the throes of a divorce.” But after Newsom repeatedly apologized, his political career continued, seemingly unaffected.

In 2008, he got married for a second time.

This article was originally published by