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California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman takes charge

Sees California as ‘Big Blue Beacon of Hope’ By KAREN OCAMB It’s been eight months since Eric Bauman won his historic but unexpectedly controversial campaign for chair of the California Democratic Party. But serving as the first openly gay chair is less of an issue in this deeply blue state than leading while also being responsive to noisy Democrats still squabbling over the 2016 election. Bauman is prepared to have his mettle tested at the California Democratic Convention, having already made significant internal changes to modernize the party. “I’m not the least bit shy about being the man I am,” Bauman tells the Los Angeles Blade. And, he adds, “my being a gay man is pretty matter of fact.” This convention from Feb. 23-25 while be the first time an openly gay man is in charge. And unlike when closeted chair Art Torres successfully pulled the party together after

Eric Bauman

Eric Bauman, center, aided in the state Senate campaign of current LA County Supervisor, Sheila Keuhl.

Photo Courtesy California Democratic Party

Photo Courtesy Bauman

the traumatic collapse of Howard Dean’s progressive presidential campaign, Bauman is dealing with several cultural movements colliding at the same time on social media and in real life, as well as having the onus placed on California to help Democrats win back Congress and put an accountability check on Donald Trump. Democrats, for instance, are facing their own “MeToo” struggles over incidents of sexual harassment allegations against three state legislators. As delegates decide how to deal with those three, Bauman decided to curtail the traditional alcohol-fueled parties and sign on with a 24/7 national rape and sexual harassment hotline, available to anyone who needs counseling, legal information or medical assistance. Additionally, Bauman added increased security at the convention to ensure that everyone walking around the convention feels safe. As a professional emergency room nurse, Bauman is no stranger to the effects of violence of word or deed. In fact, during his campaign for chair against Kimberly Ellis, a Hillary Clinton supporter who won the backing of Bernie Sanders loyalists, Bauman became the target of a vicious homophobic rumor pushed

on social media by the Ellis campaign. “What they’re accusing me of is being a child predator!” Bauman told the LA Blade at the time. He “lost it” until comforted by his husband, who produced an emotional video about Bauman and their relationship. Bauman also issued an email calling the rumor “despicable! This is not the Democratic Party! These are Trumpian tactics and it has to stop!” The next attacks were anti-Semitic. Ellis denounced the attacks but the divisive tone continued. “This is our Tea Party moment,’’ one leading Democratic strategist told Politico. “And it’s not going away.” And yet, Bauman says, the night he won the election, and the first time he spoke as party chair, he “planted one on my husband” and the throng of 3,400 convention delegates erupted into applause. “The place was on fire,” says Bauman. “Even those who voted against me—who hated me—came up and told me that it was a very bold thing to do.” Bauman says he’s not sure how his “gayness will manifest,” perhaps a pink skirt or high heels, he says jokingly. “I don’t feel the need to wear a flag on my shoulder. I don’t feel the need to carry

a signboard. But I do feel the need to represent. It was something to walk into the LGBT Caucus the first time after I won and speak to them as their chair,” Bauman says. “But you can rest assured that at meals, my husband will be sitting right next to me.” While being out is no longer unique, “it has to be that this is normalized. It has to be that it is not a big issue that I am the openly gay chair of the California Democratic Party.” Bauman’s been on that convention stage before, serving as vice chair to former chair John Burton since 2009 while also serving as something of a legislative “king-maker” for 17 years as chair of the powerful LA County Democratic Party (LACDP), with its 2.2 millions registered Democrats (2,662,109, as of Jan. 2018). Prior to that, Bauman built the local gay Stonewall Democratic Club into a statewide political powerhouse recognized at the national level. In 2000, for instance, VicePresident Al Gore chose a meeting with Stonewall as the place to announce his opposition to the anti-gay Prop 22 initiative. Also in attendance was Gov. Gray Davis, who Bauman helped get elected two years earlier over much richer gubernatorial candidates

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