#MeToo advocate and California lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct

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By Phil McCausland

A California lawmaker announced on Friday that she will place herself on unpaid leave while accusations of sexual misconduct against her are investigated.

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat, came to national prominence as an advocate for the #MeToo movement, and appeared on Time magazine’s December cover of its Persons of the Year: the “Silence Breakers” who brought to light charges of sexual misconduct.

She denies the accusations that came from two men in a Politico article.

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Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, center, listens as members of the women's caucus in the state Senate read a letter from the victim in the Stanford sexual assault case on June 13, 2016, at the Capitol in Sacramento, California.Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

“Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of,” Garcia said in a statement. “However, as I’ve said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.

"Therefore, I am voluntarily taking an immediate unpaid leave from my position in the State Assembly, including any accompanying committee assignments, so as not to serve as a distraction or in any way influence the process of this investigation," she said.

Two men, a lobbyist and a former California Capitol staffer, told Politico that Garcia touched and spoke to them inappropriately. Both men said that she appeared to be drunk during the incidents.

A former math teacher, Garcia became a champion of women’s and victims’ rights since she entered the legislature in 2012.

In October, she came to national attention as she and more than 140 women who worked in California politics signed a letter that spoke to rampant sexual misconduct in the state’s Capitol.

“Multiple people have grabbed my butt and grabbed my breasts,” she told The New York Times at the time. “We’re talking about senior lobbyists and lawmakers.”

Garcia was confident that she would be cleared following an exhaustive investigation.

“I implore the Assembly Rules Committee to conduct a thorough and expeditious investigation,” Garcia concluded in her statement, “and I look forward to getting back to work on behalf of my constituents and for the betterment of California.”