Roger Hernández is a Democratic state assemblyman from Southern California – but a better moniker might be Roger Dodger.
During his three-term legislative career, Hernández has careened from one scrape to another, including a drunken-driving arrest (a jury later acquitted him), allegations of campaign money laundering, an ex-girlfriend’s request for a restraining order and, most recently, a restraining order issued after his former wife, Susan Rubio, accused him of violently abusing her.
After each incident, Hernández had insisted that he was innocent of wrongdoing. But Rubio’s abuse allegations finally triggered a reaction.
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When she made her allegations in April, the Legislature’s women’s caucus said Hernández should take a leave of absence from the Legislature, and Republicans later demanded his resignation. But he spurned both demands, and in June, the Hernández-chaired Assembly Labor Committee rejected a parental leave bill that was a high priority for the women’s caucus.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, however, waited until Rubio obtained a restraining order on July 1 to remove Hernández’s committee assignments.
“Assembly member Hernández has problems in his personal life that need to be addressed, and he should focus on resolving them,” Rendon said.
It’s not much of a punishment. The 2015-16 legislative session has just a month to go and term limits are forcing Hernández out of the Legislature anyway.
Oddly, despite his tarnished career, Hernández is challenging eight-term Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano this year and will face her in a November runoff, but she received more than twice as many votes in the June primary.
Hernández is another indication that the Legislature doesn’t handle its aberrant members very well.
That was true even when three senators faced criminal charges a couple of years ago. Senate leaders fiddled and fussed and finally suspended them, although they continued to receive paychecks. All three were later found guilty.
Voters approved a ballot measure last month to allow the Legislature to suspend members without pay if they are charged with serious crimes, but what happens to those who, like Hernández, are accused of bad behavior of a noncriminal nature?
He’s certainly not the first case, nor the last. And the Legislature has been – to put it charitably – very inconsistent in how it deals with its miscreants.
As pointed out previously in this space, a Legislature dominated by Democrats has tended to crack down sharply when Republicans misbehave, but it lets Democrats slide.
The Senate issued a public reprimand and forced GOP Sen. John Schmitz to pay a $20,000 defamation judgment against him after he made a demeaning description of attorney Gloria Allred in 1982.
But nearly two decades later, the Senate paid $117,000 to a woman who accused Democratic Sen. Richard Polanco of sexual harassment, tried to cover up the payment and never censured him.
Hernández may be another example of the Legislature’s double standard.