It's a familiar story by this point — a powerful lawmaker is accused of groping aides and making sexually inappropriate comments, denies the allegations, faces more corroborated accusations — but this time there's a little twist: She's a fairly prominent voice in the #MeToo movement, featured in Time's "The Silence Breakers" spread. After the second batch of allegations surfaced last week, California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D) took voluntary unpaid leave while the state legislature investigates the sexual harassment allegations.
The first public allegation against Garcia was from Daniel Fierro, a former staffer for Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D), who told Politico that a visibly intoxicated Garcia groped his butt and reached for his crotch after an Assembly softball game in 2014, when he was 25. Then, last Wednesday, four anonymous former staffers accused Garcia of talking graphically about her sex life at work (including with other lawmakers), drinking in the office, pressuring staff to drink with her, and constantly reminding them they were "replaceable."
One of those staffers, David John Kernick, a former field representative for Garcia, came forward Saturday with a complaint alleging that Garcia had fired him "after he questioned the appropriateness of her suggestion that after a fundraiser at a whiskey bar" in 2014 they "sit on the floor of her hotel room and play spin the bottle." Tim Reardon, who was Garcia's chief of staff in 2014, called the allegations a "complete falsehood," saying Kernick was fired for poor work.
Garcia was among the hundreds of women in Sacramento to sign a letter protesting harassment at the California Capitol, telling The New York Times that "multiple people have grabbed my butt and grabbed my breasts. ... We're talking about senior lobbyists and lawmakers." On Monday, Garcia celebrated a new California law that penalizes lawmakers who retaliate against staffers for making a "good faith allegation," including of sexual misconduct.