Leaders of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus on Thursday demanded that Assemblyman Roger Hernández, who last week was ordered to stay away from his wife over domestic violence allegations, take a leave of absence while the case is pending in court.
In a prepared statement, Women’s Caucus Chairwoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, a senator from Santa Barbara, and Vice Chair Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens assemblywoman, cited the allegations of domestic violence by Hernández’s wife as the reason he should temporarily resign his committee assignments and position as chairman of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee.
“Domestic violence is an important issue that this Legislature has worked hard to address through awareness and statewide legislation,” Jackson and Garcia said in the joint statement.
They added: “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, who are both Democrats, declined further comment on their calls that Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, leave his post. They issued the statement on their own volition and did not put it to a vote of the full women’s caucus.
In an interview, Hernández said he had no plans to step down.
“I will continue to do the work I was elected to do,” Hernández said.
In the midst of protracted divorce proceedings with his wife, Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio, Hernández has been ordered to stay 100 yards away from her. In seeking a restraining order, Rubio alleged “a long history of physical, emotional and psychological abuse” that included being struck and choked with a belt
Hernández called the allegations “100 percent a fabrication.”
“I have never touched Susan,” Hernández said, adding that he had not attempted to contact Rubio since July. “Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that at the end of a 16-month divorce process, this is the first time this notion of domestic violence is being brought up?”
Earlier this week, Hernández pulled from a planned vote his resolution calling on Congress to spend more money on domestic violence prevention. He was one of numerous legislators signing on as co-authors on Thursday to a resolution pledging to fight gender-based violence.
Other legislators mingled with Hernández on the Assembly floor, chatting and patting him on the back, including multiple female legislators. Hernández said he believed the call for him to step aside came from Jackson and Garcia, not a majority of the women’s caucus, saying individual lawmakers approached him to offer support.
“I’m very pleased by the outpouring of support I received from many of the women I’ve been working with over the years,” Hernández. “All of the women who approached me during the morning (Assembly) session said they had nothing to do with this communication.”
Forced out of the Legislature by term limits at the end of this year, Hernández is challenging Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, in the June 7 primary.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 1:50 p.m. April 21 to include comments from Assemblyman Hernández.
Jeremy B. White of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed reporting.