UPDATED: Gay CA Dem chair resigns due to sexual misconduct charges

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Thursday November 29, 2018
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Gay California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman is facing growing pressure to resign due to sexual misconduct allegations made against him. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Gay California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman is facing growing pressure to resign due to sexual misconduct allegations made against him. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

Gay state party chair Eric Bauman has resigned due to charges he sexually harassed multiple staff members and younger male leaders within the party.

"I have made the realization that in order for those to whom I may have caused pain and who need to heal, for my own health, and in the best interest of the party that I love and to which I have dedicated myself for more than 25 years, it is in everyone's best interest for me to resign my position as chair of the California Democratic Party," said Bauman in a statement.

His decision came as multiple Democratic Party leaders and LGBT officials called for Bauman, the first openly LGBT person to chair the state party, to step aside immediately.

The LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party had joined with other LGBT party leaders Thursday to call for Bauman's immediate resignation. In a statement released to the Bay Area Reporter by LGBT Caucus co-chair Evan Michael Minton, the leaders of the affinity group for LGBT members of the state party called on Bauman to step down.

"First and foremost, the LGBT Caucus Executive Board supports all victims unequivocally. Secondly, the consensus of the LGBT Caucus Executive Board is for the resignation of Eric Bauman as chair of the California Democratic Party," stated the group.

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, also called on Bauman to resign.

"The allegations against Mr. Bauman of sexual harassment and misconduct are specific, severe and deeply troubling. Such behavior — by anyone — cannot be tolerated, and it's critical that a thorough investigation of these reports be completed expeditiously," stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. "Given the widespread and credible nature of the reports, it is our belief that Mr. Bauman should resign from his position as chair of the California Democratic Party. It is also our sincere hope that the party will provide any targets of misconduct with the counseling and support that they need."

Late Wednesday night Andy Kelley, a gay man who is vice chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party, had taken to Facebook to say it was time for Bauman to go.

"There can be no justifications, defense, or explanation offered for these charges that excuses this illegal, unethical, indefensible behavior. Eric Bauman is a sexual predator, a bully, and must resign immediately as Chair of the California Democratic Party," he wrote. "I'm calling on all my fellow Executive Board Members and Young Democrat leaders to join me in standing with our members who have been assaulted, threatened, and abused -- to demand the immediate removal of Bauman once and for all."

Omar Torres, a gay San Jose resident who represents Region 7 on the state party committee, had told the B.A.R. Tuesday night that Bauman needed to step down immediately as chair. He felt there was no need to wait until the investigation results, said Torres, as he has heard for years about Bauman behaving inappropriately with young male party members.

The Friday after Thanksgiving the state party's Second Vice Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall revealed in a letter to party leaders that a number of the party's "young political professionals" had accused Bauman of sexual harassment and assault in conversations with him. He didn't provide any details of the allegations and said the individuals desired to be left alone or remain anonymous.

"Their stories are devastating. I believe them," he wrote.

After Bauman refused to resign when he confronted him about the charges, Larimore-Hall filed charges calling for Bauman's removal as chair with the state party's human resources department and its secretary, Jenny Bach.

"Obviously, it is completely unacceptable for Chairman Bauman to remain in office given these credible, corroborated and utterly heart-breaking allegations," wrote Larimore-Hall, adding that he would "not tolerate sexual harassment or assault on any level. And once a thorough investigation is conducted, we must work to ensure this never happens again."

The matter then broke open publicly when Congressman Ro Khanna (D-San Jose) tweeted about the allegations late Friday night, calling the accusations against Bauman "shocking." He added that the party should replace Bauman as chair with Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who in June led the successful recall of former Judge Aaron Persky due to his lenient sentencing of a Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted and attempted to rape an unconscious woman.

As other news organizations began reporting on the matter, Bauman released a short statement Saturday in which he did not deny the allegations made against him. He did disclose that "a respected outside investigator" was looking into the charges and would treat the individuals "with respect and free from any concerns of retaliation."

Bauman stated, "I take seriously any allegation brought forward by anyone who believes they have been caused pain."

He added that he looks "forward to putting these allegations behind us and moving forward as unified Democrats."

As the B.A.R. reported online Monday evening, Bauman decided to take a leave of absence effective at 5 p.m. that day while the Sacramento law firm Churchwell White conducts an investigation into the accusations against him. The state party's First Vice Chair Alexandra "Alex" Gallardo Rooker is assuming the duties of chair for the time being.

The announcement came hours after the B.A.R. reported that gay San Francisco Democratic Party Chair David Campos felt Bauman needed to relinquish his day-to-day management duties of the statewide party while being investigated. He also disclosed to the B.A.R. that he was told on the Thursday prior to the November 6 election of improper behavior between Bauman and young people during a bus tour the state party embarked on in order to get out the vote.

Bauman was expected to participate in an event Friday, November 2, in San Francisco that the local party and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) had coordinated. But both Campos and Pelosi's office told Bauman not to attend due to the concerns about his behavior on the bus tour.

Most Democratic leaders at that point were unaware of what had been alleged against Bauman, 59, who became the state party's first out LGBT chair following a contentious leadership fight last year. Many said they were waiting to see the results of the investigation before calling on him to take further action.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times detailed the allegations made against Bauman by both male and female staffers of the party about inappropriate sexual comments he had made to them both at work and in private settings. The Times also reported that Bauman drank while on the job, sometimes as early as mid-morning.

In response to the Times' findings, Bauman told the paper that he planned "to immediately seek medical intervention to address serious, ongoing health issues and to begin treatment for what I now realize is an issue with alcohol."

But he also indicated he felt he could return to his work as the state party's chair.

Within hours of the paper's story being posted online, party leaders began calling for Bauman to immediately resign, and the chorus of those doing so has continued to grow from both elected Democratic leaders and rank-and-file party members. Both Governor-elect Gavin Newsom and lesbian state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) told the Times that Bauman should step down.

"In light of the volume and severity of the allegations, it is in the best interest of the Democratic Party for Eric Bauman to resign," stated Atkins. "The most important thing right now is that the victims receive the support and counseling that they need."

More victims have since come forward publicly to accuse Bauman of sexually harassing them. In a Facebook post Thursday, San Diego resident Kelvin Barrios, an executive board member for the state party who co-chairs its legislation committee, disclosed that, while attending a board meeting in Oakland in 2014 when he was 23, he attended a hotel room party with other young Democrats where Bauman was also present.

"It was at this get together that Eric asked for me to take my tie off, to loosen up, I was still in a full suit at 1:00am," wrote Barrios. "He physically removed my tie and undid 4-5 of my dress shirt buttons. All of this was doing in a jokingly manner in front of a couple of other folks while making comments about it and how stiff I looked and that I had a baby face..I remember being very uncomfortable, being very nervous and not really knowing what to do."

Barrios added, "I remember having to stop him from continuing to undo my shirt. In the end he put both of his hands on my shoulders and gave me a small slap on the cheek. This encounter was no more than 5 mins."

Because there was alcohol involved, Barrios said he initially wrote off the encounter as just part of a drunken night out and that he had somehow encouraged it.

"Eric Bauman has helped many democrats get elected over the years. That is undisputed, but this can't go on. I do hope he resigns and allows us to re-build and move forward," wrote Barrios. "Thus far, it does not seem like that's the direction he wants to go. So I am asking my fellow California Democratic Party Executive Board Members to move forward with the process in calling for a meeting of the CDP E-Board so that we can remove Eric Bauman as our CDP Chair."

Jess Durfee, a gay man who serves with Bauman on the Democratic National Committee, had initially told the B.A.R. he was waiting to comment until after seeing the independent investigation report. But after seeing Barrios' post Thursday, and reading the Times article, he too called on Bauman to resign.

"I then sent Eric a text asking him to step down and letting him know I would be publicly calling for his resignation," wrote Durfee in his own Facebook post. "For Kelvin and the others who were victims of Eric's behavior - I'm sorry for the pain he caused you. Thank you for being strong and speaking out."

San Diego resident Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the millennial constituency organizing manager for the state party who also serves on its executive board, also disclosed on Facebook Thursday that he had attended the same party as his friend Barrios and that he too had been harassed by Bauman.

"Chair Bauman grabbed me uncomfortably on my leg as I sat down once. I left the room. I was 25. I came back to find Chair Bauman unbuttoning Kelvin's shirt," wrote Rodriguez-Kennedy. "I could see him struggling to get away. He may not remember but I grabbed his arm and said 'We got to go' and we left together, I was the (designated driver)."

Rodriguez-Kennedy added that there were more incidents involving Bauman over the years that he is not ready to talk about publicly yet. While in the past he felt powerless to do anything, Rodriguez-Kennedy feels that way no more.

"Time's up. Now I have the power to do something," he wrote. "As the President of the California Young Democrats, I have the power to say this: Chair Bauman MUST resign."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) released a statement Thursday to the B.A.R. saying the allegations against Bauman "are disturbing and credible," and if substantiated by the investigation, then Bauman should resign.

"I am glad that Eric has taken a leave of absence to allow the independent investigation to proceed and to create space for people to report their experiences," stated Wiener. "It's critically important that we support these individuals ands create a completely safe space for them."

But Wiener also said it was important for the investigation to be completed so that all individuals, especially those who do not wish to talk to the press, have an avenue to tell their stories and Bauman could respond.

"I encourage the investigators to complete their investigation quickly," stated Wiener.

Bauman, who lives in North Hollywood with his husband, Michael Andraychak, has not responded to the B.A.R.'s request for comment.

In his statement Thursday, Bauman wrote, "My dream was to create an environment at the CDP where the officers were partners, actual participants in the planning and operation of the Party, where delegates and staff could share their ideas and concerns; where outreach into key communities was not limited to the campaign cycle, but was a permanent year-round commitment; where our meetings were focused on our delegates and their interests and needs; where new and creative ideas, concepts and technologies were tested, adopted and integrated; where the most innovative, sophisticated and comprehensive campaigns could be built and executed, and as a result we could engage and participate in all parts of the state; where Democrats could be elected in places long written off as unlikely, unwinnable or unimaginable; and that our relationships with grassroots groups, labor and our legislative leadership and political teams would grow and be strengthened.

"I leave knowing that in 18 short months we did all of that, he added. "May 2018 be a harbinger of 2020 and may people of goodness and caring taker back our nation and truly make it a place where all are welcome and liberty and justice for all actually means just that."

Contact the reporter at [email protected]