Daraka Larimore-Hall | Credit: Paul Wellman

Daraka Larimore-Hall, Santa Barbara’s most prominent unelected Democrat, faces a sudden, surprising test in his campaign to be elected chair of the state party.

Locked in a three-way political race for the powerful job, Daraka last week absorbed accusations of “shady, illegal behavior” from one of a trio of Dem staffers who sued the party amid a messy sexual harassment scandal — who now alleges he pressured her to withdraw litigation claims aimed at him.

There is political irony here, because Larimore-Hall was the person who last fall blew the whistle about sexual misconduct allegations swirling against then-chair Eric Bauman. The charges of rampant loathsome behavior that Daraka aired led to Bauman’s resignation — and the ongoing, fierce campaign to replace him.

The latest twist came via the online platform Medium, where Kate Earley, the party’s digital director, posted a piece titled, “I dropped my lawsuit against the California Democratic Party so I could write this.”

One of the three plaintiffs who sued in January in Los Angeles Superior Court, Earley said in a 1,627-word post that she dropped out primarily so she could name a previously unidentified “senior official” whom she had accused of “retaliation and witness tampering.” 

That would be Daraka — who firmly denies any such thing.

SUBTLETIES OF RECKONING:  At a time when Democrats across the nation engage in a painful reckoning over male conduct and comments toward and about women, Earley’s post, and Daraka’s 607-word written response, offer a social media case study of conflicting perspective in the #MeToo era.

Importantly, the issue here is not an accusation of improper physical behavior per se, but a more subtle, next-level dispute: What expectations for an appropriate and permissible verbal response are due one who makes such an allegation?

In her piece, Earley claimed that Larimore-Hall failed to help when she pleaded that the party not hire a certain Sacramento law firm to look into the mess: She felt intimidated and panicked, Earley wrote, because her college employed the same firm to investigate after she was “raped and assaulted on an ongoing basis” as a student by a university official; the law firm’s actions during that process humiliated her, she wrote.

In the Democratic lawsuit, she listed as a complaint the alleged indifference of Daraka, aka “senior official,” to her concern about the law firm. Further, she wrote, he communicated via another person that he was “displeased” and “hurt” that she did so, and he also made “threatening comments” about it to another plaintiff.

“Think about that,” she wrote, “the potential next leader of the majority ruling party of the fifth largest economy in the world engaged in witness intimidation against survivors who brought up a complaint.”

WALKING A FINE LINE:  Daraka is traveling around the state to meet with local delegates to the Dems’ spring convention, where the election for chair will go down. When we reached out about Earley’s charges, he referred us to his campaign Facebook page:

“When I saw allegations in the original lawsuit saying that I had been dismissive of one of the victim’s concerns and that I had not informed the victims before filing charges against Bauman, I was stunned, as this did not match my recollection of our discussions,” he wrote.

He stipulated speaking to a second plaintiff about Earley describing his actions as “retaliation and witness tampering.” Because that person agreed with him, Daraka wrote, he asked for help:

“I asked this person to see what they could do to correct the record, and to avoid their lawsuit being used as a political tool (which, unfortunately, has now happened).”

He flatly denies threatening or intimidating anyone.

“To be clear, I never encouraged anybody to drop their lawsuit, I never threatened anybody, and I never sent ‘surrogates’ to threaten or intimidate anyone. In retrospect, some of those conversations may have been taken out of context…”

BOTTOM LINE: It is unclear whether the controversy will hurt Daraka in the high-cost, high-stakes political brawl to lead state Dems. It can’t help.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.