California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman, leader of one of the most influential political forces in the nation, said Thursday he intended to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior toward party staff members and activists.
Bauman’s decision to resign follows a report from The Times on Wednesday that said 10 party staff members and political activists had accused him of making crude sexual comments and engaging in unwanted touching or physical intimidation in professional settings.
“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,” Bauman said.
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and other top Democrats, including state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Controller Betty Yee, had earlier called on Bauman to resign, ratcheting up the pressure for him to step down.
“Sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated — no person or party, no matter how powerful, is above accountability,” Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Click, said on Thursday.
State Democratic Party Secretary Jenny Bach, a member of the Young Democrats, said the allegations against Bauman revealed that the party has serious self-examination to do to avoid a similar situation in the future.
“Our party is not perfect, and we can and must do better going forward to ensure we can provide support and accountability for all survivors,” Bach said in a statement released by the party.
Bauman’s resignation comes during a nationwide reckoning on sexual harassment and assault that was ushered in by the #MeToo movement, which has led to the downfall of powerful figures including Hollywood moguls, entertainers, politicians and CEOs. Bauman, a gay married man, faces accusations of misconduct from men and women, including many young, low-level party staffers who felt their futures in politics were, at least in part, at his mercy.
A Bronx-born former nurse who rose to political power through his years as a labor leader and LGBTQ political activist, Bauman, 59, led the Los Angeles County Democratic Party from 2000 to 2017 before party delegates elected him chairman of the California Democratic Party. As leader, he helped guide the party’s campaign efforts, fundraising and policy positions.
On Saturday, Bauman said he would take a leave of absence after he was accused of unspecified misconduct in a letter by state party Vice Chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall that referred to “a clear and escalating pattern of Chairman Bauman’s horrific and dehumanizing behavior” and called for his resignation. Bauman said in a statement that he hoped to put the matter behind him after an independent investigation was conducted by outside counsel hired by the party.
Bauman was then confronted on Wednesday with several allegations of misconduct in a story by The Times that said seven current party staffers had accused him of making sexually explicit comments in the workplace, including references to his and and others’ genitalia, and remarks about sex acts and his sexual attraction to some staff members.
In statement to The Times responding to the allegations, Bauman said he would “seek medical intervention to address serious, ongoing health issues and to begin treatment for what I now realize is an issue with alcohol.”
“The events of the last few days have given me the opportunity to reflect on my actions and their potential effect on other people. I deeply regret if my behavior has caused pain to any of the outstanding individuals with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. I appreciate the courage it took for these individuals to come forward to tell their stories,” Bauman said. “In the interest of allowing the [California Democratic Party’s] independent investigation to move forward, I do not wish to respond to any of the specific allegations.”
Larimore-Hall renewed his call for Bauman’s resignation on Wednesday, and said a thorough investigation of the allegations and the culture inside the state party was needed.
“We must make it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated on any level, by anyone,” he said. “Throughout, we must engage one another with solidarity and respect, but we must also be brave enough to look inward and ask difficult questions. One thing is clear: People of a range of genders, gender expressions and sexual orientations felt unsafe working in and around the CDP. We share a profound responsibility to fix that.”
Alexandra “Alex” Gallardo Rooker, the party’s first vice chair and now acting chair, assumed Bauman’s duties after he went on leave Saturday. According to party bylaws, Rooker will remain in that post until the executive board appoints a temporary chair. Delegates will then vote on a new chair at the next state Democratic Party convention, most likely in May.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Rooker said she has no intention of running to be the party’s next chair. She promised to continue the independent investigation into the allegations that led to Bauman’s resignation, and said a summary of the findings would be made public.
“I care deeply about all of our staff and volunteers and my heart aches to know that any may have suffered harassment or abuse,” Rooker said. “There is no place for harassment or abuse in our party or in any workplace. As a party, all of our officers and senior staff must be committed to ensuring that the culture of our workplace changes for the better.”