SAN FRANCISCO — Less than a month after its chairman resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, the California Democratic Party has again been roiled by internal strife — this time, the abrupt firing of seven of the party’s top officials and the shuttering of its Los Angeles office by the acting chairwoman, Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker.
Those fired on Tuesday, sources confirmed to POLITICO, were Clark Lee, the California Democratic Party political director; Tina McKinnor, operations director; Jeremy Thompson, creative director; Adam Seiden, the party’s senior adviser; John Vigna, communications director; Sandra Lowe, senior strategist; and Tim Valencia, Los Angeles director and leadership liaison.
“It was a Tuesday-morning massacre,“ said one leading party activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding that some staffers were already considering legal action and that some angry delegates were collecting signatures to challenge Rooker’s acting chairmanship, which lasts until May.
The news came as a shock to many Democratic activists in the party, which was still celebrating historic wins that included flipping seven House seats in California from Republican to Democrat, and regaining supermajorities in both houses of the State Legislature in the November midterms.
Many party activists heard about the firings through social media, and were riled that Rooker released no formal statement on the reason for the action before slashing the party’s top administrators and its entire Los Angeles staff.
Roger Salazar, acting as a party spokesman on Tuesday, confirmed to POLITICO via email that that “there has been a change in the leadership staff at the California Democratic Party. The senior staff who came in with former Chairman Eric Bauman are no longer employed by the California Democratic Party.”
“This is not unusual when there is a change in leadership and is in keeping with the scaling back of party operations after an election year,’’ Salazar said in his statement. “These moves are not necessarily a reflection upon the work of each of the individuals involved, but are part of a desire by the acting chair, in consultation with the Speaker‘s office and the office of the Governor-Elect, to start fresh and keep the party moving in the right direction.”
California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom’s office later said that he had not been consulted before the firings.
Kevin Liao, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, also disputed the California Democratic Party spokesman’s statement, saying the speaker was not consulted on the move beforehand.
Party insiders say the move by Rooker could endanger the nation’s largest Democratic party in the months before it begins all-out efforts to meet a top 2020 objective — defeating President Donald Trump.
“We won in 2018 by fueling the biggest effort the California Democratic Party ever put forward, and we put a lot of House people and key races over the line,” said the party activist, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “They’ve gutted the people who basically navigated us … and that, at this point, seems like a dangerous choice to make when that’s so important.”
The activist said that some of those who were fired had been involved in reporting the allegations of abuse by Bauman in the past weeks.
Sources said that one of Rooker’s goals was to “stabilize and streamline” some of the party‘s operations coming off an election year. Rooker did not respond to requests for comment from POLITICO, though she has been in contact with the party’s executive board, according to several party members.