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The district director for Texas’ latest congresswoman, Mayra Flores, R-Los Indios, not too long ago resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.
The web site Present Revolt first reported a collection of long-running allegations towards Aron Peña in a narrative revealed final week. The web site, which is related to the far proper in Texas politics, mentioned it was informed Peña is “accused of a number of situations of harassment of teenage staffers,” together with “undesirable touching, inappropriate sexual feedback, and forcing himself on staffers.”
The Texas Tribune discovered that Peña’s earlier employer, the state Republican Social gathering, had investigated allegations of harassment towards him. And when he was then Flores’ district director, he was accused of touching and kissing an intern with out her consent in July. He denies any wrongdoing.
“The accusations are critical and never a mirrored image of our values,” Flores spokesperson Daniel Bucheli mentioned in a press release. “We addressed the allegations as quickly as we have been made conscious, and Mr. Peña resigned.”
Bucheli’s assertion referred to the allegations within the Present Revolt piece. Flores’ workplace declined any further remark and wouldn’t talk about the precise allegations associated to the intern. The workplace additionally wouldn’t reply questions on when Peña resigned and whether or not it was earlier than or after the Present Revolt article was revealed.
“I emphatically deny the allegations,” Peña mentioned in a press release to the Tribune, calling them politically motivated.
“After dropping a number of campaigns within the major a handful of Republicans within the dropping camp motivated by revenge have engaged in a long-standing effort to discredit the nice work of the Hidalgo County Republican Social gathering,” he mentioned. “Assaults have been made towards anybody who disagrees with their efforts.”
He mentioned he left the Flores marketing campaign on account of “critical well being points (blood clots within the legs and lungs)” and so he wouldn’t be a “distraction within the closing days of an election.”
The allegation towards Peña was that he assaulted an intern whereas driving her and a second intern dwelling on the finish of a workday, in accordance with two individuals acquainted with the scenario. Peña was mentioned to have dropped off the second intern first, despite the fact that it was out of the way in which, the individuals mentioned. As soon as he was alone with the primary intern within the automotive, he was reported to take longer routes to her home and started touching her and kissing her, regardless of her telling him to cease, in accordance with the individuals.
Peña didn’t deny the incident befell however informed the Tribune that the intern began it and that it was consensual.
Peña is a member of a distinguished household in Republican politics in South Texas. His sister, Adrienne Peña-Garza, is the chairperson of the Hidalgo County GOP. His father is Aaron Peña, a former state consultant who’s operating for a state appeals court docket seat.
Flores is near the household. Peña-Garza helped give Flores her begin in politics by hiring her as Hispanic outreach chair for the occasion.
Flores is in a hotly contested race for reelection after flipping the thirty fourth Congressional District in a June particular election, a boon to the GOP’s post-2020 offensive in South Texas. However she faces a more durable race in November, when the district has been redrawn to be extra favorable to Democrats and her opponent is U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.
The marketing campaign arm of Home Democrats, the Democratic Congressional Marketing campaign Committee, despatched out a information launch Friday extensively highlighting the Present Revolt story, together with 11 bullet factors with excerpts.
Gonzalez mentioned he was “deeply disturbed” that Flores employed Peña.
“Rep. Flores turned a blind eye to his conduct as a result of he got here from a related household — and consequently, a younger feminine staffer was assaulted in her office,” Gonzalez mentioned in a press release. “It’s inexcusable and tells you every thing it’s essential learn about Mayra Flores’ judgment and character.”
Peña beforehand labored for the Texas GOP, serving as strategic initiatives director from August 2021 till June 23, 2022, in accordance with a celebration spokesperson. The occasion’s chair, Matt Rinaldi, acknowledged in a press release that the occasion appeared into sexual harassment allegations towards Peña however declined to supply further element, citing a confidential course of.
“The Republican Social gathering of Texas operates a zero tolerance coverage for any type of sexual harassment within the office, treats all incidents critically, and promptly investigates all allegations of sexual harassment,” Rinaldi mentioned. “Any individual discovered to have sexually harassed one other will face disciplinary motion, as much as and together with dismissal from employment. All complaints are taken critically and handled with respect and in confidence. That course of was adopted on this occasion.”
One girl who had been concerned in native Republican politics, who additionally requested to be unnamed due to issues about retribution, mentioned she turned so alarmed with Peña’s conduct that she filed a police report in February, hoping to finish what she described as years of harassment and stalking. She mentioned she went in individual to the McAllen Police Division and shared her expertise with officers at size, however when she later requested for a duplicate of the report, she was given a abstract that omitted many particulars.
“Sufferer said male suspect has been harassing her for years now. Sufferer is prepared to file fees,” mentioned the Feb. 18 abstract, a duplicate of which The Texas Tribune obtained.
The Tribune has filed a public data request for the complete report.
Peña was by no means charged with against the law. He mentioned the accuser was a Democratic plant who hates his household.
Graham, the Cameron County GOP chief, mentioned she didn’t suppose Flores was conscious of the issues with Peña when she employed him.
“I can say with all honesty I don’t consider she knew about any of this,” Graham mentioned. “I do know her properly sufficient to consider that if she had heard about that, she would completely not tolerate it.”
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