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LA Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra Won't Seek Re-Election Amid Reports Of Sex Harassment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBSLA/AP) — Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, who represents the San Fernando Valley, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election and will immediately resign his position as majority whip ahead of a story accusing him of multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bocanegra announced he will not seek reelection in 2018 in response to a story that the Times is set to publish in which six women are accusing the assemblyman of sexual harassment.

"I spent my life advocating for the Northeast Valley, fighting for a fair share for our communities and residents," Bocanegra said in a statement to the Times Monday. "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."

Late last month, a report surfaced that Bocanegra had put his hands in a woman's blouse at an after-work gathering when both were legislative staffers in 2009. The report prompted an apology from the Democrat.

Following his announcement Monday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) tweeted to Bocanegra: "You are not the victim, you are the perpetrator who's victimized untold #'s of women & girls & brought shame to the people you purported to represent. Don't wait till 2018. Leave now."

He was the first sitting California legislator publicly named since a letter circulated in October saying there was a "pervasive culture" of sexual harassment at the state Capitol and encouraged women to share their stories.

Following an investigation Bocanegra was told not to talk to the woman again but wasn't otherwise punished, according to a 2009 letter published by the Times detailing the complaint and the probe.

"I'm deeply regretful about putting someone in this position and I want to apologize most sincerely," Bocanegra said in a statement released Oct. 27.

He was elected to the Legislature in 2012, lost his seat in 2014 and won again in 2016.

Leaders of the Legislative Women's Caucus strongly condemned his behavior and called it an example of Senate and Assembly leaders' failure to enforce the bodies' zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies.

"The indefensible actions of some male members of the Legislature show a lack of accountability and remorse," Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and Sen. Connie Levya said in the joint statement at the time. "The absence of repercussions is yet another example of the pervasive culture of sexual harassment within California politics."

In the 2009 incident, Elise Flynn Gyore, then a Senate staff member, told the Times Bocanegra approached her outside the bathroom during an after-work event at a Sacramento nightclub and put his hands into her blouse. Bocanegra was the chief of staff for then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. The two did not know each other, Gyore said.

"I jumped out of my skin," Gyore said. It felt like Bocanegra was following her around the event and she eventually left the party with a friend out of fear he might follow her to her car, she said.

Gyore confirmed Bocanegra's identity and reported him the next day to a Senate sergeant, touching off an investigation that included interviews with Gyore, Bocanegra and 13 other unidentified people, according to the letter.

"The findings from the investigation show it is more likely than not that Mr. Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly's expectations for professionalism," said the June 2009 letter.

After the investigation into Bocanegra, he was told not to communicate with Gyore and to contact others in her office with any official business, the letter said. Gyore had requested Bocanegra be banned from attending work-related social events involving alcohol, a request the Assembly said it could not comply with, according to the letter.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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