Eric Bauman is resigning as chairman of the California Democratic Party amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Bauman, who is gay, announced his plan to resign Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports. His action comes after “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,” as detailed in a Times story published the previous day.
“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 told the Times Thursday. He had previously said he intended to seek treatment for health problems and address his alcohol consumption, but he did not respond directly to the allegations.
High-ranking California Democrats, including Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, Controller Betty Yee, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, who is lesbian, had urged Bauman to step down.
The accusations came from both men and women. Allan Acevedo, a 29-year-old political consultant who is also gay, said Bauman, when in the company of other gay men, would often make remarks about men he found attractive and speculate on what they liked to do in bed. Most of the group would laugh and go along, Acevedo told the Times.
Then, in 2016, Acevedo and a former boyfriend had dinner at the home of Bauman and his husband. “Acevedo planned to stay over at Bauman’s house that night and said Bauman made a number of comments that evening about Acevedo having sex at his home,” the Times reports. When Acevedo told Bauman that he should behave or he might lose the support of the California Young Democrats, which Acevedo chaired, Bauman put his neck in a “vise grip” and said he would keep the endorsement from being revoked “because I would crush you,” the consultant told the Times. Acevedo decided not to stay over.
A female party staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bauman came on to her by saying she must have been a gay man in another life because he was attracted to her. She describes herself as “masculine-presenting.”
Another female staff member, Grace Leekley, said that when she was seated next to colleague Kate Earley at a luncheon this month, Bauman asked if the two women in a relationship and said he wouldn’t mind if they were. “I felt really embarrassed, almost ashamed, and uncomfortable,” Leekley told the Times. “I'm basically bottom-of-the-barrel staff — and he's the most powerful man in the party. I didn't feel comfortable saying anything.”
Bauman also texted “sexually suggestive remarks” to a gay male party official, who “also said he witnessed Bauman taunting staff members on multiple occasions about their sexual orientation and their physical appearance,” the Times reports.
Bauman became state party chairman in 2017, after having been Los Angeles County party chairman since 2000. He is a former nurse and union organizer, and was once president of the L.A. County Stonewall Democratic Club.
During his run for state party chair, there were rumors of misconduct, said Vice Chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall, but they were “heavy on homophobia and light on specifics.” But when he recently learned about specifics, Larimore-Hall urged Bauman to resign immediately.
Acevedo said he worried that if he came forward during the race for party chair, his allegations against Bauman would be politicized. Now, though, he regrets not bringing them up. “People just didn't know how to speak up about it,” he told the Times. “There was a sense of loyalty. Not just to him, but to any advancement that any LGBT person makes in terms of us having representation at the table.”