Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Rusty Hicks

The 2019 CDP Chair Race Ends

The 2019 CDP Chair race ended last Saturday. The CDP did not elect Kimberly Ellis to be the first Black woman to lead the party. The CDP delegates voted overwhelmingly to elect Rusty Hicks. What are we to make of this conclusion?

California or Calabama?

Among Black folks, California has earned the nickname “Calabama.” It means that far too often, Black people in California face the same deep racism they face in the South, in places like Alabama. As I watched the racial divide exposed in San Francisco last weekend, I was reminded of the struggle that Fannie Lou Hamer fought against the Democratic Party in 1964.

In 1964, Hamer helped co-found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The regional Democratic party was racist and all-white. Hamer traveled with her delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to stand as the official delegation from the state of Mississippi. Her plea to be recognized by the DNC went viral within a few days. It fell on deaf ears.

The DNC did not officially recognize the MFDP until the 1968 Convention.

At the CDP convention in San Francisco, I attended the Black Women’s Meet-up from 5-7. I don’t recall seeing any white women there. Later, from 10-12, I attended the New Girls Network reception. I counted less than 2 handfuls of Black women. I was greatly disturbed by how comfortable most of the white women appeared to be with the obvious absence of Black women. I’m not even sure that KE was invited to speak there.

Clearly, if every woman delegate had voted for KE, she would have easily won. But clearly, that did not happen. Full consideration of the culture of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination inside the CDP took a back seat to another agenda. That agenda was to preserve the privilege of white men in charge of the party. And it clearly appears that too many white women were ok with that. Much as they voted overwhelmingly for Roy Moore in Alabama despite the evidence that he molested teenage girls. What should have been a referendum on the white male patriarchy in charge of the CDP was weaponized against the Black male Chair candidate and otherwise ignored.

Who is Rusty Hicks?

Rusty Hicks seems like a nice fellow. But as I noted before the election, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime LA labor leader who worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. When Eric resigned in disgrace, it seems that his LA supporters came up with a replacement.

So now, Rusty Hicks is the face of the CDP. In his endorsement of KE, Jon Katz, the President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, said “After extensive conversations with Mr. Hicks, I worry that his vision of the party would serve the protection of our elected officials above the need to push those elected officials to take bold stances and enact legislation that the grassroots of the party put them there to do.” 

So How Did Rusty Win?

How Rusty won an election that seemed like it was KE’s to lose will be debated for at least the next two years. We know that the elected officials went all out in January to reclaim the ADEM seats. Some believe the defeat of progressive ADEM slates by hand-chosen surrogates for the electeds in January cost KE the election.

For the first time in recent memory, the CDP Labor Caucus endorsed a candidate for Chair – Rusty. The motion to endorse created a huge uproar in the Caucus. The Labor Caucus, like many other Rusty supporters, was blind to the implications of its conduct. In rushing to push Rusty into the chair seat, labor crushed the hopes of any woman who believes after 128 years, it is long past time to have a Black woman chairperson. Labor failed to consider that a woman is far better equipped to redeem the party’s reputation from the sexually predatory conduct of Eric Bauman than an Eric Bauman surrogate.

As CDP Chair, Rusty will have to reassure Black people that Black women do matter to the CDP and change the culture of sexual abuse allegedly tolerated by the Party leadership. We will tolerate no less than that. The real question is whether labor or the electeds will support him in that quest as vociferously as they supported him in the Chair race. How they answer that question may well determine whether Democrats defeat Trump in 2020.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race-Part 1

Kimberly Ellis, 2019 CDP Chair Candidate

Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman and the former Executive Director of EMERGE California. She is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party for the second time. Kimberly’s message about redefining what it means to be a Democrat is inspiring, particularly in light of the party’s failures for at least the past two decades.

On May 20, 2017, Eric Bauman was elected Chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP). Bauman narrowly defeated Kimberly. The CDP says he won by 62 votes. It really was a contest between “old school” Democrats vs “new school” Democrats. The delegates had a clear choice between (a) someone relatively new to the party and (b) someone who had waited years for “his turn.” I reported on this exciting contest in 2017. I supported Kimberly Ellis.

Bauman was Vice Chair of the CDP for almost 10 years (2009-2017) and Chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party for 17 years (2000-2017). Not surprisingly, his endorsement by the LA Democratic Party was won with 94% of the vote. Bauman was considered the” consummate party insider.” Bauman resigned his position as CDP Chair in disgrace in late 2018.

Fast forward to 2019

On January 15, 2019, 3 current and former CDP employees sued the CDP and Bauman. They claim there is a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct at the CDP that is “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials. They describe a workplace where drinking during the workday and inappropriate sexual conduct and comments were tolerated, and party leaders retaliated against those who reported allegations of harassment. In April 2019, more staffers sued the CDP and Bauman for the same type of conduct.

Bauman’s former assistant at the LA Democratic Party filed the second case. William Floyd says Bauman sexually assaulted him at least three times and groped him on numerous occasions. Floyd says Bauman threatened him, telling him “if you cross me, I will break you.”

The fact that Bauman’s outrageous conduct was “widely known” and tolerated for whatever reason is deeply troubling. Bauman was clearly a sexual predator with “no shame in his game.” He abused his power openly in grotesque ways. He knew he could get away with it. Apparently, no one cared enough about sexual oppression, or felt empowered enough within the party to say or do anything about it until CDP staffer Kate Earley broke the silence.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race

Today, Kimberly Ellis is the front-runner in the CDP Chair race. If elected, Kimberly would be only the fourth female Chairwoman of the CDP in 128 years. She would be one of less than a handful of Black women Chairs of State Democratic parties. Rusty Hicks and Daraka Larimore-Hall, both men from Southern California stepped up to run against her.

In my view, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed and fed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime labor leader with the LA County Federation of Labor. There is little doubt that Rusty worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. Indeed, in 2017, Rusty supported Eric Bauman. I believe that Rusty had to know about Eric’s outrageous misconduct and said nothing. In too many ways in 2019, Rusty looks like Eric Bauman’s surrogate replacement.

Daraka Larimore Hall (Credit: Paul Wellman)

The other leading contender for CDP Chair is Daraka Larimore-Hall. He was elected as Vice-Chair in 2017 by winning 84% of the votes. The first sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the CDP and Bauman in January, however, names Daraka as a person who tried to dissuade the lead plaintiff from filing her complaint. As a result, Daraka has not been able to overcome the perception that he was complicit in Eric’s misconduct.

So why is Rusty not similarly disqualified? Maybe because Eric is a clean-shaven white man while Daraka is a Black man. In addition, Daraka is a former Democratic Socialist who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. Therefore, Daraka’s political principles are not popular with the party elite. But, having listened to all 3 candidates, I can say that Rusty Hicks is the least impressive.

The Party Elite Have the Power

Kimberly’s greatest challenge is the power of the party elites. These “electeds” get between 2-6 votes each, depending on the size of their constituency. In addition, if they successfully ran a slate of candidates in the 2019 ADEM elections, they may have as many as 20 votes.

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) has 10 members. They have up to 60 votes. The Caucus has endorsed Kimberly. However, that is no guarantee that its members will vote in accord with the endorsement. At least two CLBC members – Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Steven Bradford – have publicly supported Rusty. For example, in 2017, CLBC members Jones-Sawyer, Bradford, Mike Gipson, Autumn Burke and Chris Holden supported Eric Bauman over Kimberly.

The California Women’s Legislative Caucus has 36 members, including 31 Democrats. That’s a trove of at least 186 potential votes. But not all women support women. In 2017, Senator Nancy Skinner supported Bauman. Senator Kamala Harris did not vote for Kimberly in 2017 and she has not endorsed her in 2019. My commentary on Kamala Harris is in Part 2.

Statewide Constitutional officers like Betty Yee, Fiona Ma and Tony Thurman have all endorsed Rusty. It seems that they are progressive until it comes to supporting the leadership aspirations of a Black woman.

How Can You Help?

Many people outside the CDP question whether they can influence the race. The answer is yes! First, you know someone who knows someone who is a delegate to the CDP Convention. You just need to find that person and urge them to vote for Kimberly.

Second, you can reach out to the key legislators and ask them to vote for Kimberly. Hit them on Twitter. Message them through Facebook. Call their offices. Send a e-mail. Let them know that you are watching. Here’s how to reach the 10 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus:

Shirley Weber
Twitter: @AsmShirleyWeber
Messenger: @ShirleyWeberCaliforniaStateAssembly
Phone: (619) 531-7913

Steven Bradford
Twitter: @StevenBradford
Messenger: @stevenbradford62
Phone: (916) 651-4035 or (310) 412-6120

Sydney Kamlager-Dove
Twitter: @AsmKamlagerDove
Messenger: @AsmKamlagerDove
Phone: 323-291-5441
E-mail: assemblymember.kamlager-dove@asm.ca.gov

Autumn Burke
Twitter: @AsmAutumnBurke
Messenger: @AssemblywomanAutumnRBurke
Phone: (916) 319-2062 or (310) 412-6400

Holly Mitchell
Twitter: @HollyJMitchell
Messenger: Holly4LACounty
Phone: (916) 651-4030 or (213) 745-6656

Reginald Jones-Sawyer
Twitter: @JonesSawyer59
Messenger: @reggiejonessawyersr
Phone: (916) 319-2059

Mike Gipson
Twitter: @AsmMikeGipson
Messenger: @AssemblymemberMikeGipson
Phone: (310) 324-6408 or (916) 319-2064
E-mail: assemblymember.gipson@assembly.ca.gov

Jim Cooper
Twitter: @AsmJimCooper
Messenger: @AsmJimCooper
Phone: (916) 670-7888 or (916) 319-2009

Kevin McCarthy
Twitter: @AsmKevinMcCarthy
Messenger: @ASMKevinMcCarthy
Phone: (916) 319-2007 or (916) 324-4676

Christopher Holden
Twitter: @ChrisHoldenNews
Messenger: @AssemblymemberChrisHolden
Phone: (916) 319-2041

Here’s how to reach the 3 women who represent the Bay Area and will control at least 18 votes at the Convention:

Nancy Skinner
Twitter: @NancySkinnerCA
Messenger: @StateSenatorNancySkinner
Phone: (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333

Buffy Wicks
Twitter: @BuffyWicks
Messenger: @AsmBuffyWicks
Phone: (916) 319-2015 or (510) 286-1400

Rebecca Bauer-Kahn
Twitter: @BauerKahan
Messenger: @RBKCalifornia
Phone: (925) 328-1515

In conclusion, the vote will take place on Saturday June 1st. We will see what the CDP really stands for!

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