California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman’s third-in-command is calling for his ouster over claims he sexually harassed and assaulted people at political events, according to a letter making the rounds on social media.
In the letter excerpt attributed to Cal Dem Vice Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall, he says he filed a complaint against Bauman—the first openly gay head of the state party—after hearing “multiple credible and serious allegations” that he assaulted men at party functions and, in one case, tried to intimidate witnesses.
Larimore-Hall, the third-ranking party official behind Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, apparently says in the letter that he spoke directly with two accusers and believes more are out there. “I believe the victims,” the letter reads. “Their stories illustrate a clear and escalating pattern of Chairman Bauman’s horrific and dehumanizing behavior.
The missive continues: “This is unacceptable for a political organization dedicated to feminism, human rights and just working conditions.”
Bauman has yet to respond to a request for comment. As does Larimore-Hall.
Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) tweeted about the allegations just before 8pm Friday, calling the claims “shocking” and advocating for Bauman’s replacement with Stanford University professor Michele Dauber, should she decide to run. Dauber spearheaded the nationally watched recall this year of Judge Aaron Persky, whose controversially brief sentence of sexual assailant Brock Turner became a flashpoint in the #MeToo movement.
“We need a bold feminist to lead for 2020,” Khanna said.
In a message to San Jose Inside, he followed up by saying he believes Dauber has the expertise to revise the Democratic Party rules to ensure a swifter response to these kinds of claims, and justice for victims.
The allegations of sexual assault that @DarakaKenric is filing against @EricBauman are shocking. CalDems should replace him with @mldauber who is one of the nation’s foremost scholars on sexual harassment & led the Persky recall campaign. We need a bold feminist to lead for 2020.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) November 24, 2018
Dauber thanked Khanna for his endorsement. She also pointed out how the claims against Bauman are part of a bigger problem plaguing political leadership in this country, which the Enough is Enough Voter Project—a political action committee she launched in the wake of the Persky recall—aims to fix.
Thank you Rep. Khanna for your confidence. It’s definitely way past time to stand with survivors and say #EnoughIsEnough to this kind of conduct from our leaders. We need to make sexual harassment and violence a voting issue – in the party and at the ballot box. @jennwadsworth https://t.co/BpBG8iOpAP
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) November 24, 2018
Khanna’s tweet elicited criticism, too. Some people suggested that the allegations might be politically motivated. Others objected to the congressman broadcasting the allegations on Twitter before the party has a chance to finalize its investigation.
Congressman, do you really think this is the proper venue to discuss very serious allegations against someone with no investigation whatsoever? And to suggest someone with very little experience in the California Democratic Party to lead that body?
There must be procedures.
— Emilie G. Gatfield (@EmilieGGatfield) November 24, 2018
Still more observers jumped in on the Twitter thread to say that a more fitting successor for Bauman would be Kimberly Ellis, who lost the election for party chair by just 62 votes after a contentious race in 2017. Dauber and Khanna agreed that Ellis—who represented the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party—would be well qualified for the role, if she still wants it. Ellis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kimberly Ellis is a great choice, and I would also be very supportive if she decides she wants the position.
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) November 24, 2018
The underlying point in all this, Dauber said, is that both parties should make sexual violence and sexual harassment voting issues, and a litmus test for leaders.
“I appreciate Rep. Khanna’s confidence in me and I think it speaks to the need for leaders who will take sexual harassment and violence seriously,” she said in an email late Friday. “These allegations are deeply disturbing and if they are substantiated, Eric should clearly resign. There might also be a law enforcement investigation given that the allegations include sexual assault. Unfortunately this is an issue in both parties and we have to end it immediately. Enough is enough.”
Dauber said her heart goes out to Bauman’s alleged victims.
“That’s the most important thing is that there are real people who have been damaged here and need help,” she said. “It’s the job of the Democratic Party to investigate, to hold any wrongdoers accountable and to ensure that the victims have what they need to heal.”
Khanna echoed her sentiment.
“I am most concerned about the victims,” he told San Jose Inside. “It takes great courage to tell their stories, especially considering the position of power that the California Democratic chair has.”
This article has been updated.