Lawmaker accused of domestic violence to stay in Assembly leadership

01Assemblyman Roger Hernández, who last week was placed under a temporary restraining order from his wife, will not be stripped of his committee chairmanship, Speaker Anthony Rendon said on Friday, despite pressure from the influential leaders of the women’s caucus.

In a statement to CalWatchdog, Rendon, a Paramount Democrat, condemned domestic violence, but said he will not seek action at this time against Hernández, a Democrat from West Covina. 

It was just last month when Rendon announced his leadership team, which included Hernández atop the Labor and Employment Committee, the same leadership role he was in under Rendon’s predecessor, Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. 

“Since the temporary restraining order was filed against Assemblymember Hernández last week, there have been several conversations about what the next steps should be,” Rendon said. “If the allegations are more fully validated, I will be prepared to take further action.”

Calls to step aside

On Thursday, the Democratic chair and vice chair of the women’s caucus, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and Asm. Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, issued a statement calling for Hernández to step down until the matter with his estranged wife, Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio, is resolved.

“In the wake of the serious allegations against Assemblymember Roger Hernández, we believe he should step down from his committee assignments and his position as chair of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee while his case is pending in court and take a leave of absence,” Jackson and Garcia wrote.

“While a determination is still pending on these most recent allegations and we respect his right to due process, it’s important that the Legislature send a strong and consistent message to victims about our commitment to confronting domestic violence and demonstrate that we take allegations seriously when they occur among one of our own,” Jackson and Garcia added. 

Rendon did not expand on what would constitute “more fully validated,” but no charges have been filed against Hernández. The situation places the new speaker in an awkward position between being cautious and appearing to set a soft behavioral standard for members.

“(Rendon) should have anticipated that such a problem would come up,” said John J. Pitney, Jr., a professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College. “It is not exactly unprecedented for California legislators to face accusations of bad behavior.”

What’s been alleged

Rubio is alleging that Hernández — who is seeking a seat in Congress — pushed, shoved, hit and choked her during their marriage, according to the Los Angeles Times. The couple is 16 months into divorce proceedings.

After an April 5 divorce hearing, Rubio alleges that Hernández “came ‘aggressively’ toward her and began shouting in her face,” prompting her to seek a restraining order. In the filing, Rubio included pictures of a bruised and scratched arm, the Times reported.  

Hernández denied the allegations to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday and other outlets and said he will not take a leave of absence or step aside from committee responsibilities.

Hernández was re-elected to a third and final term in 2014, beating his opponent by 9 points. 

Mostly quiet 

Besides Jackson, Garcia and one Republican assemblyman who has been calling for Hernández to be stripped of his chairmanship since he had security forcibly remove the Republican’s microphone at a committee hearing, other lawmakers have been quiet, as have outside groups.

In a long statement condemning domestic violence, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence issued a statement of “concern” about the situation, but refused to take a position “(b)ecause the case at hand is open and ongoing, we do not have all the facts and cannot presume the nature of the evidence, nor the legal implications thereof.”

Troubles in the other chamber

Not that long ago, several Democratic senators ran afoul of the law. All were eventually convicted, unlike Hernández, who has not been charged. Although some were removed from leadership roles at the first sign of trouble. 

Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood was convicted of multiple voter fraud felonies, according to the Los Angeles Times. During the appeals process, he was removed from his committee chairmanship. 

Sen. Ron Calderon of Bell Gardens was removed from the executive board of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and from his legislative committee assignments after allegations of bribery surfaced. He had not been charged with any crimes at the time, but eventually took a leave of absence after federal corruption charges were filed. 

The apex of trouble was when Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was indicted on charges of gun trafficking and public corruption (while in cahoots with a gangster named Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow). Yee was immediately stripped of all of his committee assignments. 

At the time, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had had enough. “Every indictment, every arrest, every arraignment and even every suspicion or allegation reflects very poorly on each of us and all of us,” Leno said at the time.

Leno did not respond to requests for comment on Friday about whether those feelings remained and if they applied to Hernández.


It’s not the first time Hernández has been accused of wrongdoing. In 2012, an ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence, although charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence. 

That same year, Hernández was arrested for drunk driving in a state vehicle, but was acquitted by a jury on one charge, while the jury was hung on another. 

In 2015, allegations of political money laundering against Hernández were dropped by the Fair Political Practices Commission after two key witnesses were unable to testify — one had serious medical issues while the other had passed away. 

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