Gary Kremen this weekend withdrew from the race for Santa Clara County assessor, dropping his aggressive challenge to 27-year incumbent Larry Stone and promising to return thousands in campaign donations.
Kremen’s surprise announcement to local media on Saturday afternoon came several hours after he was accused by a former employee of sexual harassment, and after calls for his resignation by prominent local Democrats.
The claims by the former employee included complaints that Kremen, the millionaire entrepreneur founder of Match.com who is chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors, had inadvertently included semi-nude photos of himself and his partner in a campaign Dropbox account and refused to remove them. The former employee was interviewed by the online San Jose Spotlight, whose story was published by regional news service Bay City News, and reported by the Mercury News on Feb. 26.
The announcement by Kremen, who lives in Los Altos Hills, came a few hourse later, a little more than three months before the June primary and nearly a year after he first announced his candidacy. The withdrawal left Stone the clear favorite in a re-election bid. Andrew Crockett is the other candidate.
Just three days before the revelations and his withdrawal, Kremen was featured in an article in the Dow Jones national financial website Marketwatch.
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 in the statement circulated to local media. "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, county Democratic Central Committee member and well-known women's rights activist.
On Twitter Saturday, she posted: “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.”
Kremen’s campaign website this morning featured a boilerplate cartoon with the announcement: “Sorry, we're doing some work on the site. Thank you for being patient. We are doing some work on the site and will be back shortly.”
Kremen’s Facebook campaign page this morning gave no information about the allegations or his withdrawal from the race. Kremen.com, his personal website, was last updated Jan. 22 with information about the water board.
On his Twitter account, Kremen's last post was a Jan. 22 retweet of an announcement of launch of Water Watch' website to track water conditions |
Kremen gave no indication he intended to resign as water board chair or from his seat on the agency board, to which he was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.
Kremen is no stranger to controversy. He fought a long legal battle for the rights to the Sex.com domain. Last year, Stone accused him of “hijacking” Stone’s personal email list of 1,300 contacts; the emails in question were simply copied from the cc: field of emails that Stone himself had sent out.
Along with his position on the water board, Kremen is a member of the board’s ethics and conduct committee. He also serves on another 10 regional water advisory groups.
He told the Mercury News Sunday he will return about $71,000 in campaign contributions, but intends to stay on the water board.
The former Kremen staffer told San Jost Spotlight that said the photos of Kremen and his partner in bed were still in the Dropbox when the staffer quit the campaign on July 7.