California Democratic party chair allegedly made sexually explicit comments, engaged in unwanted touching

California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman allegedly made sexually explicit comments at work often and would sometimes touch staffers without their permission.

Bauman, 59, is the subject of an internal investigation after multiple people accused him of sexual misconduct. Earlier this week, he said he would take a leave of absence during the probe. He has also said he’s going to seek treatment for alcohol abuse and health issues, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I deeply regret if my behavior has caused pain to any of the outstanding individuals with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. I appreciate the courage it took for these individuals to come forward to tell their stories,” Bauman said.

“Leading the California Democratic Party to historic victories has been the honor of a lifetime, and I look forward to continuing this important work upon the conclusion of the investigation and when my health allows,” he added.

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Multiple staffers told the Los Angeles Times Bauman, the party’s first openly gay chairman, would often make sexual comments to men and women at work.

One woman told the newspaper Bauman said he wanted to have sex with her and suggested she would have been a gay man in a previous life.

Grace Leekley, a 21-year-old temporary worker in the party’s communications department, said she arranged for her own transportation when the party traveled around the state with candidates earlier this month because she did not want to be on a bus with Bauman. At a lunch on the trip, she claimed Bauman asked her and another woman if they were having an affair in front of other colleagues. Although they said no, Bauman allegedly continued to press the pair.

“I felt really embarrassed, almost ashamed, and uncomfortable,” Leekley told the Los Angeles 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.”

“I felt really embarrassed, almost ashamed, and uncomfortable.”

— Grace Leekley

Kate Earley, the party’s digital director, filed a complaint with her supervisor and met with a human resources representative, according to the newspaper. However, a source said Bauman had not seen an official complaint by the time he took his leave of absence.

Another employee said Bauman would rub his back and stomach. On one occasion, Bauman gave him a long hug and groaned, the staffer alleged. He said Bauman would also whisper in his ear.

In 2016, Bauman and his husband had dinner with political consultant Allan Acevedo and his then-boyfriend, Acevedo told the Los Angeles Times. Throughout the night, Bauman made sexually explicit comments, to which Acevedo joked that he might rescind his endorsement of Bauman for the party chairmanship, he claimed.

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Bauman grabbed Acevedo by the neck in a “vise grip” and said the endorsement would not be revoked because “I would crush you,” Acevedo said.

Other party officials told the newspaper Acevedo had described the encounter to them. But he did not come forward publicly in the past because he was worried it would be politicized since Bauman was running for the party chair spot, he told the Los Angeles Times.

“People just didn’t know how to speak up about it,” he said. “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.”

The investigation into Bauman was launched after vice chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall officially called on state Democratic Party leadership to remove Bauman from the elected position due to “credible, corroborated and utterly heart-breaking allegations.”

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Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna said Bauman should be removed from his position and replaced with Michele Dauber, a Stanford Law professor who led the efforts to recall Judge Aaron Persky after his controversial sentencing of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

Bauman was narrowly elected as the party’s chairman in 2017. He previously led the Los Angeles County Democratic Party for 17 years and worked as a nurse.

In 2017, he told the Los Angeles Times his “Bronx demeanor” makes him come across as “a tough guy.”

“I am, in appropriate circumstances, very aggressive,” Bauman said.

A series of sexual misconduct allegations against lawmakers, lobbyists and others in politics rocked California's political world late last year at the height of the #MeToo movement. Three Democratic men resigned as state lawmakers after investigators hired by the state legislature found they likely engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Fox News' Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.