Capitol Alert

California governor candidates distance from Matt Dababneh after assault allegation

Assemblyman Matt Dababneh addresses a group of supporters during a rally at the Capitol in 2014.
Assemblyman Matt Dababneh addresses a group of supporters during a rally at the Capitol in 2014. The Sacramento Bee file

While Assemblyman Matt Dababneh has emphatically denied his involvement, the political and professional fallout grows for the Los Angeles Democrat over allegations that he pushed a Sacramento lobbyist into a hotel bathroom in Las Vegas last year and masturbated in front of her.

Pamela Lopez named Dababneh at a press conference on Monday, more than six weeks after she first shared the incident as part of a campaign against sexual harassment in California politics. She was joined by Jessica Yas Barker, who said Dababneh harassed her when they worked together in Rep. Brad Sherman’s San Fernando Valley district office.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Chiang became one of the first public officials to call on Dababneh to resign: “There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace,” he said in a statement. “We cannot change the culture in Sacramento if we don’t remove those in power who abuse it.”

His opponent Gavin Newsom, who appeared at a community town hall with Dababneh last year, donated a $10,300 campaign contribution from Dababneh to “equal rights advocates.”

At the Capitol, an outside investigation is ongoing. Lopez reported the incident to the Assembly Rules Committee on Monday morning, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement that “if it is found that Assemblymember Dababneh committed this assault I will ask for his immediate resignation and move for his expulsion if he refuses to resign.” Dababneh is “temporarily stepping down” as chair of the Banking and Finance Committee while the investigation proceeds.

Some fellow lawmakers are not waiting for the results of that inquiry to express their concerns about Dababneh.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat who has been vocal about sexual harassment at the Capitol, shared on social media that she “will not work with Mr. Dababneh or any individual who engages in abusive behavior.”

“As a survivor, I will always side with victims,” Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, wrote on Facebook. “Facing and calling out your abuser is courageous. Something I haven’t had will to do. Godspeed Pamela!”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, wrote on Facebook: “I can’t imagine a single reason Pamela Lopez would make this up. We know that very few women make up allegations of sexual assault. It’s just not something that happens. And no one has given me a single reason to believe this is one of those rare instances of false allegations.” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, also said on Twitter that he believes and supports Lopez.

Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez said Monday, December 4, 2017, that Assemblyman Matt Dababneh cornered her in a hotel bathroom last year and masturbated in front of her. Dababneh has denied the allegation.

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WORTH REPEATING: “They’re attacking the vital sinews of the American economy, and it’s very stupid.” - Gov. Jerry Brown on GOP tax-reform efforts

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME: The Legislature spent much of last session pulling together an expansive bill package that would begin to address California’s severe housing crisis. But that work could be jeopardized by the Republican tax plan in Congress, which proposes to do away with tax breaks that fund affordable housing construction. As the U.S. Senate and House hammer out a final deal, Rendon and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, will visit a San Francisco affordable housing development at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the “threat” if the GOP tax bill passes.

SWEET CHILD OF MINE: Jill Berrick, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare whose research focuses on improving the experience of children and families in the foster care system, will present her framework for balancing the competing priorities of child welfare policy, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE: The Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color holds an informational hearing on reducing youth incarceration, 1 p.m. at Pacoima City Hall.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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