Capitol Alert

California Republicans ask Roger Hernández to step down

Assemblyman Roger Hernández
Assemblyman Roger Hernández Sacramento Bee file

A California lawmaker accused by his estranged wife of domestic violence must step down, Republican officials said on Thursday.

In a court hearing on Wednesday, Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio detailed what she called a pattern of violence by her husband, Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, as she sought a restraining order. Her initial request for a restraining order described “a long history of physical, emotional and psychological abuse.”

The two are in the midst of divorce proceedings, and Hernández has called Rubio’s allegations “100 percent a fabrication.”

Now Republican elected officials have called on Hernández to forfeit his Assembly seat and end his campaign for Congress.

“Given the serious and growing list of accusations, Assemblyman Hernández’s continued presence in the State Assembly brings dishonor to the entire California State Legislature,” Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said in an emailed statement that bore the California Republican Party logo and also quoted Republican Party Vice Chair Harmeet K. Dhillon and Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

The demand marked the second time that lawmakers have sought Hernández’s resignation. In April, the leaders of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus called on Hernández to take a leave of absence from the Assembly; Hernández declined, arguing that most female lawmakers continued to support him.

Forced out of the Legislature at the end of this year by term limits, Hernández is seeking to claim a seat in Congress by challenging Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk. He has been accused of domestic violence before involving a different woman, though prosecutors ultimately cited a lack of evidence in declining to pursue charges.

In a lengthy statement, Hernández called the allegations “retaliation” and “politically motivated.”

“The issue of domestic violence is very serious and should never be taken lightly. The allegations against me are politically motivated and strategically timed to damage my name and my reputation as voters in the San Gabriel Valley are considering who should be their next representative to the United States Congress.

“Sadly, divorces can be a very difficult process and my divorce is not immune to these difficulties. My estranged wife has not accepted my desire to be divorced from her as she has been responsible for each and every delay. These delays have made the divorce proceedings now overlap the election season. These allegations are retaliation. At no point throughout our lengthy 16-month divorce process did Susan Rubio ever raise any accusation of domestic violence.

“I run with my head held high because I know that I have the support of Democrats, Republicans and Independents of the San Gabriel Valley, who deserve a representative who lives in the 32nd Congressional District. With over 22 years in public service, I have a proven record of delivering results for all communities across the San Gabriel Valley. Due process of the law is guaranteed in our Constitution and I have full faith in the justice system that I will be vindicated once again of these false allegations. I am not known to back down from lies and propaganda. I did not back down from corporations that exploit our workers or from Wall Street and their predatory lending practices. Why would I allow strategically timed allegations stop me from continuing my work protecting our community’s working families, children and seniors?”

Rubio issued a statement on Friday, rejecting Hernandez’ characterization of the allegations as politically motivated.

“As I learned first hand, even with strong awareness, no one is immune,” the statement said. “It is a complex epidemic that will not be solved simply by asking our leaders to step down or ignoring its seriousness by calling it ‘politically motivated’ and ‘strategically timed.’ There is never a right time when it’s this personal, painful and elected leaders are involved. I can only hope I’ve given other women the courage to speak up.”

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 6:40 p.m. May 26, 2016 to include a longer statement from Hernández. It was updated at 10:35 a.m. Friday May 27, 2016 to include a statement from Rubio.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert