- Associated Press - Monday, May 8, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The closely fought race to lead the Democratic Party in one of the nation’s most Democratic states took an unusual turn after a leading candidate said he’s the target of false rumors about inappropriate behavior with teenage boys.

Details are vague and no one has pinpointed the source of the salacious claims. But they’ve added unexpected drama to a little-watched contest that was shaping up as a duel between Bernie Sanders loyalists and the party’s establishment wing.

The allegations were raised in an email Sunday sent to thousands of state Democrats who will pick the next party chair at a May 20 convention.

State party vice chair Eric Bauman, one of two leading candidates for the top job, wrote that supporters making phone calls on his behalf last week heard from “some delegates” that he has been “engaging in inappropriate behavior with 14- and 16-year-old boys.”

Bauman wrote that he heard the “despicable lies” again last weekend, from another supporter. His chief rival in the race, activist Kimberly Ellis, said she was shocked and saddened by Bauman’s email, and denounced any “cruel maligning of someone’s character.”

Bauman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bauman is the longtime head of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, as well as a senior adviser to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. He secured early endorsements from elected officials and was long viewed as the front-runner of the largely two-person race.

But it’s become a tight contest since nurses and other Sanders supporters lined up behind Ellis, the former director of a Bay Area organization that works to elect Democratic women.

Bauman has come under pressure for work his political consulting firm has done for corporate clients. Pharmaceutical companies paid the firm to work in opposition to a ballot measure that would have prohibited the state from paying more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The measure, which Sanders supported and campaign for, failed after drug companies spent more than $100 million in opposition.

The work has touched a nerve with many some Democratic activists a time when some of the party’s biggest stars, including Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are focused on curtailing the role of money in politics and the power of corporations.

Sanders loyalists flexed their political muscle in January when they showed up in force at local elections for over 1,100 party delegate slots, sending a number of nurses and other progressive activists to the convention.


Blood reported from Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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