Silicon Valley politician and tech entrepreneur Gary Kremen is ending his campaign for Santa Clara County assessor five hours after an exclusive report from San José Spotlight revealed allegations from a former staffer.
Kremen told San José Spotlight on Saturday he is withdrawing from the race for assessor. The announcement came shortly after a former staffer accused Kremen of sharing partial nude photos of himself and his long-term partner in a campaign Dropbox, and then refusing to delete them. He previously told San José Spotlight he denied all wrongdoing and accused the staffer of trying to smear his campaign.
By Saturday afternoon, many prominent leaders denounced Kremen and he dropped out of the race.
“I am ending my campaign but stand by the original statements,” Kremen said.
Kremen is also the chair of the Valley Water board of directors. He said Saturday he will not resign from that position. A Valley Water spokesperson on Saturday said Kremen’s fellow board members won’t comment.
State Sen. Dave Cortese and Stanford professor Michele Dauber released a joint statement Saturday calling for Kremen to quit the campaign and resign from office.
“I am saddened and shocked to hear this public account of Mr. Kremen that was made today by his former staff member,” Cortese said. “There is no place for this type of behavior in public service and I call on Mr. Kremen to immediately resign from his political and governmental seats and end his current campaign.”
Dauber is a Stanford professor and longtime women’s rights activist who led a campaign to recall a Santa Clara County judge for giving a light sentence to Stanford student Brock Turner for sexual assault. She is also a member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee.
“I stand with survivors, and I urge all other members of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee to join me. Enough is enough,” Dauber said.
Gary Kremen should drop out of the Assessor's race. Allegedly showing nude photos to an employee, paying in cash, bullying and threats, drinking and discussing pornography are all unacceptable working conditions. We need a female candidate @sobaylabor https://t.co/AZNIyJuv3P
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) February 26, 2022
Dauber said the allegations against Kremen are essentially in line with a hostile work environment, including sharing intimate photos, bullying and intimidation. She commended the staffer for coming forward, noting that these are workplace conditions women have been fighting against for decades.
Kremen is a major donor for Democratic candidates and clubs in Santa Clara County. On Saturday, Santa Clara County Democratic Party Chair Bill James informed party insiders and leaders the party had planned to postpone an endorsement interview with Kremen that was scheduled for Monday, according to an internal email obtained by San José Spotlight. The email was sent before Kremen announced he was ending his campaign.
Kremen, the founder of Match.com, was challenging incumbent Larry Stone, a longtime politician who has been in office 27 years.
“That kind of conduct has no place in government or with elected officials,” Assessor Stone told San José Spotlight on Saturday. “I think he made the right decision.”
The former staffer, who spoke with San José Spotlight on condition of anonymity, worked for several months last year on Kremen’s campaign for assessor. They said on May 11 they found Kremen had put four partially nude photos of himself and his longtime partner, Essy Stone (no relation to Larry Stone), in a Dropbox they used for the campaign. San José Spotlight reviewed screenshots the staffer took of the photos.
Kremen claims the photos were part of a bulk upload of photos the staffer was supposed to go through for campaign purposes. He and Essy Stone said the four photos were taken shortly before or after breastfeeding, and they were not sexual in nature. The couple is lying in bed and there is no child pictured in the images.
The staffer claims they confronted Kremen about the photos and he joked about the pictures and asked if he looked good. The staffer said they asked Kremen to remove them and he refused, asking them to work around the pictures. The staffer said the photos were still in the Dropbox when they quit the campaign on July 7.
Kremen denied joking about the photos or refusing to delete them. He said he removed the staffer’s access to the Dropbox after they had a disagreement about a foreign policy issue. Kremen’s partner, Essy Stone, was not aware he had added the photos to Dropbox. She told San José Spotlight it was a mistake and not malicious.
The staffer also made allegations about Kremen’s behavior. They said he paid them in cash instead of through his campaign, encouraged them to drink at parties at his house and would sometimes physically touch their shoulders and legs. They said Kremen also showed them photos of himself with pornographic actors. He was clothed in the photos.
Kremen denied the allegations about sexualized conversations and touching.
The staffer said they left the campaign in July after Kremen allegedly threatened them by saying he would destroy a local Democratic club where they were both members. The staffer said he was upset about a resolution the club was planning to approve concerning a foreign policy matter. Kremen said he had a disagreement with the staffer and lost his temper. He said he apologized repeatedly for his behavior.