by Matthew S. Bajko
Equality California has thrown its support behind the gay man running to be the first out chairman of the California Democratic Party.
In a statement issued Monday, February 13, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization officially endorsed Eric Bauman for the state party’s top leadership post. He would be the first openly LGBT person to head either major political party in the Golden State.
Currently vice chair of the state party, Bauman is also the longtime chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, now serving his eighth term. Formerly a registered nurse, Bauman works as the senior adviser to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) and directs the Speaker’s Office of Member Services. Bauman lives in North Hollywood with his husband, Michael Andraychak , also a former registered nurse who now works as a product manager at Healthland, a health care software company that focuses on rural hospitals.
He is running against Richmond resident Kimberly Ellis , who is African-American and raising two children with her husband, for the state party’s chairmanship. For the last six years Ellis has been executive director of Emerge California.
The election will be held at the state party’s convention in May, when current state party chairman John Burton , a former state lawmaker, will step down when his term expires. He is supporting Bauman to be his successor.
Even though it was an open secret that Burton’s predecessor Art Torres, who led the California Democratic Party for 13 years, was gay, Torres did not come out publicly until after he stepped down in 2009.
“Eric’s election would be a milestone for the LGBT community,” stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur . “LGBT people are under-represented in elected and appointed office, as well as in party leadership positions. Having an LGBT person lead the largest political party in the largest state in the nation will shatter an important glass ceiling.”
Bauman has lined up a long list of support among Democratic Party elected leaders and activists. He has also hit back against being pegged an “establishment” candidate for party chairman and has moved to win over progressives within the party, many of whom won delegate slots to the upcoming state convention and will vote on who becomes the new party chair.
In late January Bauman endorsed progressive Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a black Muslim, in his bid to become chair of the Democratic National Committee later this month. In announcing his decision, Bauman noted that Ellison, who is backed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), has a plan to focus on every single county in the country, similar to his working with Democrats in rural and more conservative areas of California.
As Bauman wrote in a guest opinion for the Bay Area Reporter this week, “I truly believe the grassroots are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and the reason we have been so victorious in California.”