California Democratic chairman resigns amid misconduct probe

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California Democratic Party chairman resigned Thursday following a cascade of sexual misconduct allegations and mounting pressure from party leaders who wanted a quick resolution to an embarrassing interruption from the party's midterm victory celebration.

Eric Bauman's resignation came less than a week after he first faced public accusations of sexual misconduct, although the party received at least one report of inappropriate behavior ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

"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 in a statement.

It followed a call from Governor-elect Gavin Newsom and other officials for Bauman to resign after the Los Angeles Times reported multiple allegations of crude comments and inappropriate touching by Bauman. He said Wednesday he would seek treatment for alcohol abuse and other health issues.

Bauman did not directly address the allegations against him. Instead he cheered his own accomplishments as the party's leader, a post he narrowly won after a bitter 2017 battle between so-called establishment Democrats, who were Bauman's allies, and progressive activists. Bauman was the party's first openly gay chairman.

California Democrats won sweeping victories in the November election that furthered the party's grip on power in Congress and the state Legislature. A replacement likely won't be chosen until the party's convention next May, said Alex Gallardo-Rooker, the acting chair.

She said Thursday she won't seek the post and will instead focus on ensuring a smooth transition of power and creating a better work culture.

An investigation into Bauman could bring further scrutiny on the party when its results are released.

Eric Schickler, a professor of political science at the University of California-Berkeley, said Bauman's resignation is unlikely to cause direct problems for the party given the election has passed. But it does put pressure on the party to act more swiftly in the future.

"It sends a message to the party, if there is a next time where there are these kinds of open secrets, we really need to deal with it more aggressively," Schickler said.

Party vice chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall on Nov. 20 submitted accusations of sexual harassment and assault by Bauman against unnamed victims to the party, secretary Jenny Bach said Thursday. That kicked off a process that allows Bauman to formally respond. Outside attorneys have also been hired to investigate.

David Campos, chairman of the San Francisco Democratic Party, said another complaint was raised with the party ahead of the election. Campos and members of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's team asked Bauman not to attend a Nov. 2 event in San Francisco after hearing two young women reported drinking and inappropriate comments by him during a campaign bus tour.

Grace Leekley told the Los Angeles Times that Bauman asked her and another 21-year-old party staffer if they were sexually involved on Nov. 1.

Larimore-Hall said that story and multiple others, including more serious allegations of sexual assault, prompted him to call for Bauman's removal last week.

"I heard enough stories that to me it was really clear he shouldn't be our chair," Larimore-Hall said Thursday. He held a conference call with six victims Thursday to talk about how to move forward, he said.

Newsom, the incoming governor, "is troubled by the serious allegations," his spokesman Nathan Click said in a statement.

"Sexual harassment shouldn't be tolerated - no person or party, no matter how powerful, is above accountability," the statement said.

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