Senator seeking Democratic endorsement days after resigning

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California Democrat plans to seek his party's endorsement for a state Senate seat at Saturday's convention just days after resigning from the same seat following a sexual misconduct investigation that found he likely harassed six women.

Former Sen. Tony Mendoza told the Associated Press he maintains "overwhelming" support among  voters in his Los Angeles-area district and is undeterred by what he called unfair efforts to oust him by colleagues seeking political gain.

"The Senate process was a sham," he said Friday.

Mendoza resigned Thursday, just before a possible vote to expel him, pushed by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, Mendoza's former roommate and a U.S. Senate candidate. He said he wanted to leave on his own terms and let the voters decide his fate this fall rather than be branded by the "scarlet letter" of expulsion. Mendoza is the third California lawmaker to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations since nearly 150 women released a letter last fall saying sexual harassment is pervasive in California's Capitol.

Mendoza's odds of earning the endorsement are steep. He failed to secure the endorsement earlier this year — normally a lock for incumbents — and would need the backing of 60 percent of delegates in his district at the convention. He plans to arrive Friday night and will address his district delegates the next day, potentially earning a hostile reception from some members of the party who strongly called for him to leave office.

He's apologized if he made anyone uncomfortable but has continued to deny engaging in inappropriate behavior. He said he changed his behavior in 2010 after a young female employee complained and was never made aware of any other concerns about his behavior.

He's denied inviting a 19-year-old intern to drink alcohol in a hotel suite at a party convention in 2008.

Mendoza has accused de Leon of throwing him under the bus to gain credibility in his upstart campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He ramped up that criticism Friday, saying he was disappointed by de Leon's behavior after roughly 20 years of friendship, including sharing a home in Sacramento during session.

"I considered him a friend, I considered him a close ally," Mendoza said.

De Leon didn't comment Friday, but on Thursday defended the investigation process and said the Senate's first priority was protecting employees.

"We take no joy in a colleague's resignation, but this was clearly the right and just outcome for this Senate, our employees and the taxpayers we serve," he said in a statement with Democratic Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego, who will take over his leadership post next month.

He said de Leon should have recused himself from making decisions about his fate because the two lived together for about a decade.


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