Mayor Ed Murray announced May 9 that he would not seek re-election amid an ongoing scandal stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by four accusers.
Murray and his campaign staff had been adamant that he would stay in the race, but in a press conference from the Alki Bathhouse in Murray’s childhood neighborhood of West Seattle, the mayor said that his continued candidacy would distract from issues facing the city that should be at the heart of the debate.
“Any campaign for mayor must be about the future of this city, about the actions we must take to make this a more equitable city, about the actions we must take to make this a more affordable city, about the actions we must take to solve our homelessness crisis, about the actions we must take to add growth and livability,” Murray said. “These are real, urgent and important issues before this city. The mayor’s race must be focused on these issues, not on the scandal, which it would be focused on if I were to remain in this race.”
Rumors that he would drop out of the race swirled for days before the official announcement, preceded by reporting from Crosscut that Seattle Director of Finance and Administrative Services Fred Podesta called a meeting of cabinet staff to take place just after 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. It was days before the filing window for the official race opens on May 15.
The scandal broke with a bombshell story from The Seattle Times on a lawsuit filed in early April by Delvonn Heckard, a man who alleged that Murray paid him for sex when he was a teenager in Portland. Heckard’s lawsuit opened the door for three other accusers to tell their stories. Two of them had come forward previously.
Murray’s team went on the offensive, denying that the mayor knew Deckard and going so far as to produce a doctor’s note refuting details about Murray’s genitalia included in the law suit.
The following week, the editorial board of The Seattle Times called for Murray bow out rather than subject voters to “this torrid theater.” Others, including fellow mayoral candidates, kept quiet until Murray took to the editorial pages of The Stranger and attacked Heckard’s character and trustworthiness by pointing to Heckard’s criminal history.
In the aftermath, some explicitly called for Murray to resign his position and continue to fight the civil allegations as a private citizen. Murray, however, intends to stay in office until his term concludes in December.
Murray is a first-term mayor of Seattle, taking the office after almost two decades in public service in the state legislature. The openly gay politician fought for LGBTQ rights at the state level, as well as infrastructure investment and environmental policies.
In the more radical context of Seattle politics, where a center-left candidate is considered too conservative, Murray found himself at odds with elements of the political spectrum that wanted to push him further to the left. Nevertheless, under his tenure, Seattle successfully implemented a $15 minimum wage, increased protections for immigrants and refugees, and created a development agenda meant to address housing affordability and production in the city.
Murray earned quick criticism from homeless advocates, who decried his policies regarding the sweeps of homeless encampments in the city and weaknesses in the Pathways Home plan to combat homelessness.
At the announcement, Murray continued to deny the allegations against him, which he previously argued were politically motivated.
“The allegations against me paint me in the worst possible historic portraits of a gay man,” he said.
In bowing out, Murray ends an uninterrupted 22-year career in Washington politics that began at the Washington Legislature and ended at Seattle City Hall.
“This career that has been my life will come to an end on Dec. 31st,” he said.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read our full May 10 issue.