Harassment case puts U.S. Senate candidate under spotlight
SACRAMENTO — News that a sitting California senator is being investigated for sexual harassment against a young female employee has put a fresh spotlight on a legislative leader this week as he begins a bid against the state’s first female U.S. senator.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, the Democratic leader of the state Senate, heads the committee in charge of human resources employees who handle workplace complaints. De Leon also rents a room in the Sacramento home of Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza, the man accused of improper conduct, de Leon spokesman Anthony Reyes said.
Mendoza is accused of repeatedly inviting a young woman who worked in his office through a fellowship program to the house, although she never went. Mendoza said in a statement that he would never knowingly abuse his authority, though his statement didn’t address the allegation that he invited her to his home.
Late Saturday, the Sacramento Bee reported that a second young woman has accused Mendoza of behaving inappropriately toward her when she was a 19-yearold intern in his district office in 2008. A spokesman for Mendoza said the woman’s allegations were “completely false,” the Bee reported.
The woman, now 28, came forward with her allegations after media reports this week of the Senate investigation into Mendoza’s reported behavior toward the first woman, according to the Bee.
De Leon said through spokesmen that he did not know about the complaint against Mendoza or his alleged invitations to the young woman. De Leon’s allies have downplayed the two senators’ relationship.
But De Leon’s handling of impropriety at the Capitol will likely play a role in his U.S. Senate bid against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of California’s most prominent women in politics and a powerful U.S. senator.
“It really does feel like we’re at this inflection point with sex harassment allegations where suddenly they’re being taken seriously,” said Kim Nalder, director of the Project for an Informed Electorate at California State University-sacramento. “It’s hard to imagine that Kevin de Leon’s bid will be completely untarnished by this revelation that someone close to him was accused of this kind of misbehavior.”
In this 2016 file photo, state Sen. Tony Mendoza, Dartesia, listens at the Capitol in Sacramento.