Orange County Republicans approved a resolution calling on embattled Assemblyman Bill Brough, R-San Juan Capistrano, to retire at the end of his term next year.
Brough, who has denied allegations of sexual misconduct and is under investigation by state ethics officials regarding campaign spending, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the vote taken Monday night by the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee.
Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker said the resolution, which asks Brough to end his re-election campaign based on “the totality of the circumstances and controversies surrounding the assemblyman,” was “overwhelmingly” approved on a voice vote.
“I heard maybe four `no’ votes,” he said, adding that Brough was “clearly upset” by it.
“We understand his need for due process,” Whitaker said, referring to probes underway by the Fair Political Practices Commission into alleged campaign spending violations and the state’s workplace misconduct investigation.
“But as a political party, the 73rd Assembly District and Republican Party deserves to have a candidate not mired in controversy and investigations, and we’re committed to winning the 73rd,” Whitaker said. “We as a party need to move forward with a different candidate.”
Brough’s sexual misconduct accusers — Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Jennifer Rodriguez and Heather Baez, issued a joint statement following the vote.
“Bill Brough’s sexual misconduct and predatorial behavior has already caused each of us great pain and anxiety. As if that was not enough, now he is using his position of power to shame and intimidate us. Unfortunately for Bill, his actions have given us more resolve than ever to stand up against his bullying tactics and tell people the truth about his behavior. We are not scared of him and will not be silenced.”
Rodriguez and Baez were working as legislative staffers in Sacramento when they accused Brough of harassment.
Patricia Wenskunas, founder and chief executive of the Crime Survivors organization, spoke out against Brough as the keynote speaker at the OCRPCC’s monthly meeting Monday night.
“I am so proud of these women for coming forward,” Wenskunas said.
Referring to Baez and Rodriguez, she added, “They came forward anonymously, but he (Brough) chose to call them out by name.”
In a statement Brough issued last month, Brough argued that his bill to rein in spending at the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency prompted the complaints.
“One thing I learned over the years is when you kick the beehive, the bees come out,” he wrote, adding that the “toll roads have become a local gravy train for elected officials charged with overseeing it and numerous consultants who call these politicians their friends.”
Bartlett rejected that explanation.
“The sexual misconduct has nothing to do with transportation issues whatsoever,” Bartlett told City News Service. “Assemblyman Brough is using it as a ruse to deflect from what the crux of the matter here is, which is addressing sexual misconduct issues.”
Bartlett said the initial draft considered by the party’s executive committee contained stronger language.
“The resolution that was passed was a watered-down version from the original draft,” she said. “Clearly, something is better than nothing and that’s where we ended up Monday night.”
In June, Bartlett spoke out against an endorsement of Brough during a meeting of the Republican Central Committee in Costa Mesa. She alleged that while the two served on the Dana Point City Council in March 2011, he made an unwanted pass on her after a city council meeting. Bartlett accused him of clutching her from behind and putting an arm around her shoulder while inviting her out for a drink.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s chief of staff, Melanie Eustice, has announced that she will seek to unseat Brough, as have two fellow Republicans, Laguna Niguel City Councilwoman Laurie Davies and Mission Viejo City Councilman Ed Sachs, and a Democrat, Scott Rhinehart.
The top two candidates from the March primary will face off in the November 2020 election.