Aron Pea, Flores’ district director, was accused of inappropriately grabbing and kissing an intern. He claims he did nothing wrong.
Mayra Flores, R-Los Indios, Texas’ newest lawmaker, resigned recently amid claims of sexual harassment.
In a post published last week, the website Current Revolt first disclosed a series of long-running charges against Aron Pea. According to the website, which is linked to the far right in Texas politics, Pea is “accused of many incidents of harassment of adolescent staffers,” including “unwanted touching, inappropriate sexual comments, and pushing himself on subordinates.”
The Texas Tribune discovered that Pea’s previous job, the state Republican Party, had investigated harassment accusations against him. In July, he was accused of grabbing and kissing an intern without her consent while he was Flores’ district director. He claims he did nothing wrong.
“The allegations are serious and do not reflect our principles,” stated Flores spokesperson Daniel Bucheli in a statement. “We responded to the claims as soon as we were made aware of them, and Mr Pea resigned.”
Bucheli’s statement alluded to the charges in Current Revolt. Flores’ staff declined to comment further and refused to disclose the specific claims against the intern. The office also refused to answer questions regarding when Pea resigned and if it was before or after the publication of the Current Revolt story.
“I categorically refute the charges,” Pea stated in a statement to the Tribune, calling them political in nature.
“After losing multiple primary races, a handful of Republicans in the losing party have participated in a long-standing attempt to denigrate the outstanding work of the Hidalgo County Republican Party,” he added. “Attacks have been launched against anyone who opposes their objectives.”
He stated that he abandoned the Flores campaign owing to “severe health difficulties (blood clots in the legs and lungs)” and that he did not want to be a “distraction in the last days of an election.”
According to two persons familiar with the event, Pea was accused of assaulting an intern while bringing her and another girl home at the end of a workday. Pea was reported to have dropped off the second intern first, despite the fact that it was out of the way. When he was alone in the car with the first intern, he allegedly took longer routes to her house and began groping and kissing her despite her warnings to stop.
Pea did not dispute the incident that occurred but told the Tribune that it was initiated by the intern and was consensual.
Pea is from a strong Republican political family in South Texas. Adrienne Pea-Garza, his sister, is the chairperson of the Hidalgo County GOP. Aaron Pea, a former state lawmaker, is seeking a seat on the state appeals court.
Flores is very close to his family. Flores got her start in politics thanks to Pea-Garza, who hired her as the party’s Hispanic outreach chair.
Flores is running for reelection after flipping the 34th Congressional District in a special election in June, a benefit to the GOP’s post-2020 offensive in South Texas. However, she faces a more difficult campaign in November, when the district has been reconfigured to favour Democrats and her opponent is U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, issued a news release Friday that significantly highlighted the Current Revolt piece, containing 11 bullet points with extracts.
Gonzalez stated that he was “afflicted” by Flores’ hiring of Pea.
“Because he came from a connected family, Rep. Flores turned a blind eye to his behaviour — and as a result, a young female staffer was raped in her job,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “It’s inexcusable and reveals everything about Mayra Flores’ judgement and character.”
According to a party official, Pea previously worked for the Texas GOP as strategic projects director from August 2021 until June 23, 2022. Matt Rinaldi, the party’s head, stated in a statement that the party investigated sexual harassment complaints against Pea but failed to offer further details, citing a confidential process.
“The Republican Party of Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of sexual harassment in the workplace, takes all instances seriously, and immediately investigates any sexual harassment accusations,” Rinaldi stated. “Anyone found to have sexually harassed another will face disciplinary action, including termination from work.” All complaints are handled seriously and treated with dignity and confidentiality. In this case, that procedure was followed.”
One woman involved in local Republican politics, who also requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said she became so concerned with Pea’s behaviour that she filed a police report in February, seeking to put an end to what she characterised as years of harassment and stalking. She claimed she went to the McAllen Police Department in person and spoke with police extensively, but when she later requested a copy of the report, she was given a summary that lacked numerous information.
“The victim indicated that the male suspect has been harassing her for years.” “The victim is willing to press charges,” according to the Feb. 18 summary, which The Texas Tribune received a copy of.
The Tribune has requested the full report through public records.
Pea was never arrested or charged with a crime. He claimed the accuser was a Democratic operative who despised his family.
Graham, the Cameron County Republican Party leader, stated that she does not believe Flores was aware of Pea’s difficulties when she hired him.