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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
One, a former legislative staffer, said California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia groped him during a legislative softball game in 2014. She confirmed that she attended the game, but said she has “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior.”

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia on Friday denied accusations of sexual misconduct but said she would voluntarily take unpaid leave while an investigation takes place.

“Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of,” Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said in a statement. But she added that “any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.”

Garcia said she would take an unpaid leave “so as not to serve as a distraction or in any way influence the process of this investigation.” She urged the Assembly to conduct a “thorough and expeditious investigation.”

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  • California in Congress
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  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
Candidates Gavin Newsom, Delaine Eastin, Antonio Villaraigosa and John Chiang take questions from moderator Jane Wells during a forum.
Candidates Gavin Newsom, Delaine Eastin, Antonio Villaraigosa and John Chiang take questions from moderator Jane Wells during a forum. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Days before one of California’s most powerful labor unions announces its endorsement in the race for governor, the four top Democratic candidates courted members of the group’s largest and most influential local chapter in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

The gubernatorial forum, which focused on the state’s long-term care needs for its growing senior population, lacked the disputes seen in recent debates between Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin.

The four candidates instead promised to fight for higher pay for in-home healthcare workers and stronger union protections for SEIU Local 2015, the largest chapter of the Service Employees International Union’s California organization. The state group is expected to announce its endorsement ahead of the California Democratic Party convention later this month.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Mike Cernovich may run for Congress in California. His residence is in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s district.

Far-right activist and blogger Mike Cernovich said Thursday he’s thinking about running for Congress in California this year. “It’s looking like a real possibility,” he tweeted to his more than 400,000 followers without revealing which district he might be considering. 

The prominent right-wing figure who was an early peddler of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory has more recently been known for giving documents to Buzzfeed that led to its report about sexual harassment settlements by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). 

Cernovich lives in Laguna Niguel, within the coastal Orange County district that belongs to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who has said he’s “unequivocally running” for reelection.

  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
  • Sexual harassment

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) issued a statement late Thursday confirming there is an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made against Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens).

“The Assembly is working to prevent sexual harassment and to ensure there is a strong process in place for responding to inappropriate behavior and holding perpetrators accountable. As in other cases, the Assembly Rules Committee has hired an outside firm to investigate the incident reported,” Rendon said. “I trust that while the investigation proceeds Assemblymember Garcia will respond appropriately and in a way that fortifies the Legislature’s effort to create a new climate. As in other cases, while the investigation moves forward, I am also asking Assembly Human Resources to reach out to Assemblymember Garcia’s staff to ensure they feel safe in their work environment.”

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  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
  • 2018 election
  • California Republicans
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 8
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 8 (John Myers/Los Angeles Times)

California’s most well-known Republican didn’t mince words Thursday in assessing the record of President Trump’s chief environmental adviser, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“He is without any doubt the wrong person at that place,” former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. “He does not represent the people. He only represents the special interests. He should be removed immediately.”

Schwarzenegger was in Sacramento to meet with seven state Assembly Republicans who support environmental protection policies. Last month, the former governor agreed to help the group in creating a new political action committee for electing Republicans in 2018.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
One, a former legislative staffer, said California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia groped him during a legislative softball game in 2014. She confirmed that she attended the game, but said she has “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior.”

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus who has been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment in the state Capitol, has herself become the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. The Bell Gardens Democrat said she would “participate fully” in an investigation. 

Politico reported Thursday that two men said Garcia made improper advances toward them. One, a former legislative staffer, said Garcia groped his back and buttocks and attempted to grab his crotch during a legislative softball game in 2014.

The former staffer, Daniel Fierro, told his former boss, Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) about the incident several weeks ago, his office said. Calderon then reported the incident to the Assembly Rules Committee.

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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment

The sexual harassment controversies that have consumed California’s Capitol in recent months have got the attention of the state’s residents — even more than the brewing race to be the state’s next governor.

Forty-six percent of California adults — and nearly 60% of likely voters — are closely following developments of harassment and misconduct in Sacramento, according to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California. By contrast, only around a third of likely voters say they’re closely tracking news in the governor’s race.

The issue of sexual harassment in state politics surged into the limelight several months ago as part of the #MeToo movement. An open letter signed by more than 140 women denouncing a Capitol culture they described as rife with misconduct set off a domino effect, with two legislators resigning after facing allegations of harassment and another lawmaker currently on leave pending an investigation into his behavior.

  • California Legislature
The LAPD-coached youth football team Watts Bears (in white) pursue a member of the Southern California Falcons during a 2013 game. The players are 7 to 9 years old.
The LAPD-coached youth football team Watts Bears (in white) pursue a member of the Southern California Falcons during a 2013 game. The players are 7 to 9 years old. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California would become the first state to prohibit minors from playing organized tackle football before high school under a proposal made Thursday by lawmakers concerned about the health risks.

Just days after the Super Bowl, Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) said they are introducing the “Safe Youth Football Act,” legislation that will be considered this year by state lawmakers.

Under the bill, organized tackle football would be allowed starting with high school freshmen.