Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, under a cloud of child sexual abuse allegations, should not run for re-election for the good of the city.
SEATTLE Mayor Ed Murray has dug in for the fight of his long political life against decades-old child sexual abuse allegations. In a bizarre news conference on Tuesday, his lawyer voluntarily disclosed medical records about Murray’s genitals to rebut a claim in the lawsuit against him.
How much of this sordid theater are voters going to be forced to endure in the coming months, as Murray runs for re-election?
Have no doubt: Murray has been a relatively successful mayor who was likely to sail to his second term. The mayor had a string of achievements to run on, including public preschool funding, police reform and an eyes-wide-open attack on the city’s homelessness challenge.
But as he hunkers down in City Hall and lashes out at his accusers, Murray jeopardizes his legacy and increases the chance that a lesser leader might be elected.
Instead, as mayor, Murray should put the city’s interests first. He should not run for re-election. Stepping aside would clear the way for another qualified, pragmatic leader to come forward. Then Murray could serve out his term supporting several of his noteworthy policies.
What is best for the city, Mr. Mayor?
Of course, the mayor should defend himself against the lawsuit filed by a man who claimed Murray paid him for sex three decades ago when the plaintiff was a 15-year-old boy. Disturbingly, that lawsuit reflects similar claims made by two other men, one of whom says Murray raped him when he was 13, as was first reported by The Seattle Times last week.
With the doctor’s report Tuesday, Murray rebutted one claim made in the lawsuit about a unique anatomical feature. He has denied his accusers’ allegations, but he has yet to answer specific questions. Those may not be answered in litigation for months or years.
Meanwhile, Murray is transformed from the bold big-city mayor into one who defers to his defense lawyer when he is invited to speak to The Seattle Times editorial board about the biggest political scandal in Seattle in generations.
Unless the lawsuit is suddenly withdrawn, and the other claims are rapidly debunked, the city faces a long mayoral campaign, uncertain when the next gut-wrenching revelation will appear. The allegations would dog Murray at every event, every debate.
If he runs under that cloud, it increases the possibility of a Mayor Kshama Sawant, or some other extreme left-wing ideologue, steering this booming city wildly off course. An open field will draw better mainstream candidates who can build on Murray’s work.
Murray’s defenders cast the lawsuit and related allegations as well-timed political payback for his iconic career as a gay civil-rights champion. Indeed, there are legitimate questions about the law firm that filed the lawsuit. It is founded by a Tacoma attorney with an anti-gay rights record.
But Murray’s counterpunch begs a question: when is the right time to file a child sexual abuse lawsuit against an elected leader?
Remember, this lawsuit is not about sexual orientation, or gay civil rights. It is about alleged child sexual abuse. Three men came forward — one recently and two a decade ago — with stories similar in details about Murray. Each has a serious criminal record, which could damage their credibility. But their rap sheets do not mean they are lying. If they are telling the truth, Murray is automatically disqualified for office.
Seattle at this moment needs a strong executive to manage the city’s unprecedented growth, to push back against off-kilter City Council ideas and to advocate for the city’s values with the Trump administration.
Murray at times has been that leader, and could still be. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, he cannot lead under this cloud. He should serve out his term and not run for re-election.