Roll Call quoted former Bates aides in October 1988 saying that the San Diego Democrat made sexual advances toward female staffers. Bates called it a GOP-inspired smear campaign, but also apologized for anything he did that might have seemed inappropriate. The story came too close to Election Day to damage Bates, who won easily. However, the following October the ethics committee sent Bates a "letter of reproval" directing him to make a formal apology to the women who filed the complaint. Although the district was not thought to be hospitable to the GOP, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former Navy pilot who was once shot down over North Vietnam, ousted Bates in 1990 by fewer than 2,000 votes.
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