Politics

SoCal lawmakers accused of harassment struggle to raise campaign cash

Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, sits at his desk before announcing that he will take a month-long leave of absence while an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him proceeds. Mendoza subsequently resigned.
Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, sits at his desk before announcing that he will take a month-long leave of absence while an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him proceeds. Mendoza subsequently resigned.
Steve Yeater/AP

Listen to story

00:54
Download this story 0.0MB

Two Southern California lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct are struggling to raise cash for the June elections, new campaign finance reports show.

Former state Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned in February after an investigation found he likely engaged in "flirtatious or sexually suggestive" behavior with several female aides, some of them his subordinates.

Mendoza, a Democrat from Artesia, stepped down ahead of a possible vote to expel him, and is now running for the same seat. He has apologized to anyone who felt uncomfortable around him and said his recollection of events didn't match that described by Senate investigators.

Because Mendoza resigned, June 5th will feature two elections for his old seat. One is a primary for the general election and the second is a primary for a special election to temporarily fill the seat until next year. Mendoza is running in both elections, although he's raised less than $10,000 for each contest this year — peanuts in the expensive world of California politics.

Meanwhile, a trio of candidates vying for the seat have raised more than $100,000 in 2018: Pico Rivera Councilman Bob Archuleta, Rio Honda College Board Vice President Vicky Santana and Artesia Councilman Ali Sajjad Taj.

Mendoza has outpaced the competition when it comes to campaign spending. Yet much of his campaign's $216,000 in expenses were payments to a legal defense fund. Mendoza is being sued by a former aide.

The story is similar in the 58th Assembly District, which overlaps with the 32nd Senate District in cities, including Downey and Cerritos. Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens who holds the Assembly seat, is under fire after reports she had allegedly harassed male staffers and used homophobic and anti-Asian slurs. That was a head-spinning move for political observers because Garcia had emerged as a leader in the statehouse’s #MeToo movement.

Like Mendoza, Garcia has lagged behind her competitors in fundraising with a modest $61,000 in 2018. Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Ivan Altamirano and Bell Gardens Councilman Pedro Aceituno have both far outpaced that amount.

Bob Hertzberg, a Van Nuys Democrat who represents the San Fernando Valley in the state Senate, was recently told by a legislative committee that his trademark hugs made female colleagues uncomfortable. He was told to stop the practice. Hertzberg is not facing a strong challenge in his district, the recently released campaign finance reports show.