Eric Bauman, the leader of the California Democratic Party, has resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct — the latest politician forced to step down in the #MeToo era.
Allegations that he had made sexually explicit comments and inappropriately touched or physically intimidated party staffers and political activists were first reported by Melanie Mason at the Los Angeles Times Wednesday. After being confronted with the complaints, Bauman said he would seek treatment for alcohol abuse and health issues, but did not respond directly to the allegations.
But on Thursday, incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom and other California lawmakers called on him to step down, and Bauman released a statement saying he was resigning.
“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,” he wrote.
Bauman was a former nurse who rose within the state’s Democratic Party and took the helm in May 2017, becoming the first openly gay person to lead the party. That earned him deference among progressives in California, according to the LA Times, but it’s now clear that he may have crossed the line.
The allegations establish “a clear and escalating pattern of Chairman Bauman’s horrific and dehumanizing behavior,” state Democratic Party vice chair Daraka Larimore-Hall told the Times.
Bauman joins more than 250 powerful men who have been accused of sexual misconduct since last year
The #MeToo movement gained momentum last year when allegations came out against producer Harvey Weinstein. The term #MeToo was first coined by Tarana Burke, an activist from New York City. People need to be reminded that “for every Harvey Weinstein, there’s a hundred more men in the neighborhood who are doing the exact same thing,” Burke said.
Many of these powerful figures in politics, media, and entertainment have either been fired or stepped down from their jobs as a result of sexual harassment or assault allegations as the #MeToo movement has taken off. But as Vox’s Anna North points out, allegations haven’t hurt everyone. President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom have been accused of sexual assault, have remained in power (or gained it).
According to the LA Times, Bauman said last year that the party had a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
But the allegations against him echo a common theme in the #MeToo era: Victims are scared and ashamed to come forward when it’s their word against a person with much more power and recognition. That, at least, has started to change in the past year and a half.
A full investigation is set to be launched into Bauman’s behavior.