Chief California Democrat resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Eric Bauman

California’s first openly gay chairman of the state Democratic Party announced Thursday he would resign amid a flurry of allegations that he sexually harassed and inappropriately touched party staff members and activists, particularly young adults. [Sacramento Bee]

Last week, party Vice Chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall demanded Chairman Eric Bauman’s resignation after being approached by a number of party staff members, most of whom were at the beginnings of their careers, who said they had been sexually assaulted or harassed by Bauman at party functions. Bauman disputed the allegations, but over the following days, some alleged victims went public, leading to rising pressure on Bauman to resign.

Bauman allegedly frequently made explicit remarks to both male and female staffers about their sex lives, bodies and genitalia and touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable. One party delegate said Bauman groped him at two different party events, once grabbing his penis and once grabbing his butt.

Spencer Dayton, a 21-year-old party delegate from Lodi, said the first incident occurred during the May 2017 convention in Sacramento when Bauman was elected state party chair. Dayton approached Bauman to say hello and hear his opinion on issues of importance to the party’s rural caucus. Dayton was supporting Bauman’s opponent in the race for chairman, and it was the first time he had ever spoken personally with Bauman.

When he shook Bauman’s hand, Bauman pulled Dayton in close and grabbed his penis, Dayton said. It was very quick but very intentional, Dayton said.

Then in Nov. 2017, during the party’s executive board meeting, Dayton approached Bauman to ask for support on a resolution he planned to introduce. Bauman put his arm over Dayton’s shoulder and reached down and grabbed his butt, Dayton said.

Then Bauman said, “Well, I’m going to have to think about it,” according to the 21-year-old’s account. Dayton said he felt like he was being propositioned to trade sex for the party chairman’s help.

Dayton said he felt compelled to come forward when he heard others were speaking out about their experiences with Bauman. Dayton retained a lawyer and reported the incidents to party officials as part of an ongoing investigation into Bauman’s conduct.

A day prior to announcing his resignation, Bauman announced he would seek unspecified treatment for health problems and alcohol abuse. Dayton said Bauman did not appear drunk either time the party chair groped him.

Pressure increased on Bauman this week when Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom said he should resign. Newsom’s spokesman issued a statement saying sexual harassment should not be tolerated, and no matter how powerful, no person or party is above accountability. 

Upon announcing his resignation, Bauman issued a statement saying the decision is in everyone’s best interest.

“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,” Bauman said. 

Bauman was narrowly elected chairman of the state party in 2017, defeating community organizer Kimberly Ellis, who appealed to the progressive wing of the party. Bauman is the former head of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he was viewed as an establishment Democrat.

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