Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that he is ending his campaign for re-election amid allegations of child sexual abuse ends a political career that has spanned decades.
Mayor Ed Murray ended his campaign for re-election Tuesday — bowing out of a race that not long ago he was expected to win easily, shutting the door on a second term in Seattle’s highest office and aborting a political career that’s spanned decades.
Murray’s decision comes a month after he was sued for alleged child sexual abuse in the 1980s and less than a week before the official candidate-filing period begins.
The mayor maintains he is innocent and the victim of smears.
“It tears me to pieces to step away,” Murray said in an emotional, sentimental speech at the Alki Beach Bathhouse in the West Seattle neighborhood where he spent part of his youth. “But I believe it is in the best interest of this city that I love.”
With supporters, staff and his husband standing around him, and interrupted at intervals by their applause, Murray recalled his childhood, how he grew to love politics, and his role — as a gay man and elected official — in the evolution of gay rights.
“I’m happy because I have been part of some remarkable achievements.”
Those achievements ranged, he noted, from a state “civil rights bill to the ring I wear on my finger.” Many supporters had tears in their eyes.
Then Murray, 62, announced he was dropping out, saying a campaign should be about making Seattle a better, more affordable city. He plans to serve out his term, which runs through the end of the year.
“The mayor’s race must be focused on these issues, not on a scandal, which it would be focused on, if I were to remain in,” he said.
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The scandal, Murray said, is hurting the city.
“It hurts those who have been victims of abuse. It hurts my family. It hurts Michael,” he added, referring to his husband, Michael Shiosaki.
The mayor took no questions from reporters.
After the speech, labor leader David Rolf said, “I think what we just saw was an act of selflessness,” and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, appointed by Murray early in his term, said the mayor had shown leadership by withdrawing.
The accusers, who say they had sex with Murray in their teens, all have criminal histories, and the mayor has suggested the claims are politically motivated.
In his speech Tuesday, Murray said the accusations “paint me in the worst possible historic portraits of a gay man.”
“The allegations against me are not true, and I say this with all honesty and with the deepest sincerity.”
Murray had initially met the claims against him with defiance, vowing to continue his bid for re-election.
The day after Heckard sued, he said, “Things have never come easy to me in life, but I have never backed down and I will not back down now.”
But the accusations — including extremely graphic claims — thwarted the mayor’s best attempts to carry on with business as usual.
There were headlines about Murray’s genitals, as an attorney for the mayor sought to rebut a detail in the lawsuit by presenting the results of a medical exam.
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And there were the other men, whose shocking allegations about the mayor bore similarities to Heckard’s story of what he said happened to him when he was a crack cocaine-addicted high-school dropout living on the streets of Seattle.
In a written statement Tuesday, Beauregard said his client “feels like this is one step towards justice and achieving his cause of spreading truth.”
The attorney said Murray “has indeed accomplished much good for the community, including fighting for gay rights.”
Heckard, who is gay, “regrets the pain this situation has caused” to Murray’s husband and others, Beauregard said.
Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson have said they were abused by Murray when they were growing up in Portland.
Then last week, a fourth man, Maurice Lavon Jones, signed a sworn declaration in Heckard’s case saying that he, too, as a teenager in the 1980s had been paid by Murray for sex.
Simpson, who was Murray’s foster son for two years and who claims he was sexually abused by Murray starting at age 13, said Tuesday he had “mixed emotions.”
“I think what he has done for the city of Seattle has been awesome, man,” Simpson said by phone from Portland. “I feel for Seattle. I do. But I think that these are some of the consequences that he has to face.”
“The consequences that the survivors of him have gone through have been 100 times worse than that,” he added.
Simpson first made the accusations against Murray in 1984. Police investigated, but no charges were filed.
He raised his claims again a decade ago, when Murray was a state lawmaker, calling other legislators and members of the media. No news outlets published the allegations at that time.
A changed race
The mayor pushed ahead with his work despite the allegations, sending proposals to the City Council for a soda tax and an upzone of the Chinatown International District. None of his big supporters pulled their support for his campaign, instead giving him time to try to bounce back, even as former Mayor Mike McGinn jumped into the race.
But as the weeks wore on, the pressure grew for Murray to withdraw.
A Seattle Colleges commencement speech the mayor had been set to deliver was canceled, with no one willing to say whether the allegations were a reason.
And despite reports of voters being polled on the sexual-abuse claims, his campaign remained tellingly mum about the mayor’s standing in the court of public opinion.
Murray supporters asked Seattle’s ethics commission whether they could set up a fund to collect donations to help the mayor pay for his legal defense.
State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said the mayor’s Tuesday announcement was a tragic conclusion to a long political career.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be five years short of retirement and see all of that just come to an end with an abruptness nobody could have predicted,” he said.
Pedersen added, “My personal view is he has done a remarkably good job as mayor and has accomplished an awful lot … It’s just a sad situation for everybody involved.”
State Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, joined the race Monday, and it’s likely other big-name candidates will enter the fray now.
Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, who has been meeting with possible supporters, is on the verge of making an announcement.
Pedersen said former Gov. Chris Gregoire has been making calls on Durkan’s behalf and that Durkan had met this week with representatives of Vulcan, billionaire Paul Allen’s real-estate firm. She’s also met with union leaders.
Murray had raised nearly $375,000 for his campaign and had more than $200,000 cash on hand at the end of March, when that information was last disclosed.
He won’t be allowed to move the money directly to another candidate.
‘Opportunity of a lifetime’
Murray is a progressive Democrat who built political influence as a state representative and senator, brokering transportation budgets and fighting for gay rights as the state’s leading gay politician.
A self-described social-justice Catholic, he considered the priesthood before studying sociology at the University of Portland.
After moving back to Seattle, he began working with Cal Anderson, a state senator who was the Legislature’s first openly gay member.
Appointed to a House seat in 1995, Murray served 18 years in Olympia, where he was the prime sponsor of Washington’s same-sex marriage law.
He unseated McGinn to become mayor in a hard-fought 2013 contest.
Under Murray, Seattle has set its minimum wage on a path to $15 per hour and voters have approved a succession of tax hikes to boost spending on everything from parks and transit to subsidized preschool and affordable housing.
The mayor has set in motion a series of upzones, allowing developers to build taller while requiring them to help the city create affordable housing.
In March, he announced Seattle was suing over President Donald Trump’s executive order that threatens to withhold funds from so-called “sanctuary cities” for immigrants.
Murray’s greatest challenge has been responding to a proliferation of homelessness and unauthorized encampments on sidewalks, under bridges and along highways.
He proclaimed a civil state of emergency in November 2015 to address homelessness and ratcheted up the city’s efforts to help people living outside.
But the massive surge in state and federal assistance Murray called for has yet to materialize, and the state of emergency is now more than 500 days old.
The mayor has faced criticism both from Seattle residents frustrated by trash and crime associated with unauthorized encampments, and from those who say the city’s evictions of people from such encampments are unproductive and inhumane.
Being mayor, Murray said Tuesday, has been the “absolute opportunity of a lifetime.”
He issued a note to his staff, saying he looked forward to his next months in office to “finish what we’ve started.”
Murray wore a green tie to the speech and spoke about his upbringing, his Irish heritage and his mother knocking on doors for President John Kennedy.
“Since I was 12 years old, politics has been my life and my dream. I lay on the grass of this beach, reading children’s books about FDR and JFK,” he said, adding, “From that came my career. And I have the best job in politics — mayor of the city of Seattle.”
The mayor recognized his husband, praising Shiosaki for gracefully stepping into the role of Seattle’s first gentleman.
Told Murray would remain in office, one of his accusers wasn’t satisfied. Anderson, reached in Florida, said the mayor “needs to resign immediately.”
“That’s all I have to say about it. It’s not good enough,” Anderson said.
In a Twitter post, former Mayor McGinn also called on the mayor to resign.
No detractors were present Tuesday, however, as the mayor delivered his remarks among a curated crowd of sympathetic faces. Those included his sister, Judy, and a nephew, John Noski.
Noski described Murray as a dedicated public servant and family man.
“He was a significant mentor in my life,” he said. “I support his decision today, but it comes as a significant loss to the community.”
Murray concluded with a quote from the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. “To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.”