“Seattle leadership by and large got the Ed Murray response totally wrong,” said one former state lawmaker.
Some prominent Seattle Democrats have had plenty to say about sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama’s embattled Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore.
State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski called Moore a “bigot” and “child predator” in a Nov. 9 tweet, adding “He must go now.”
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, took to Twitter the following day to condemn Republicans standing by Moore despite multiple women accusing him of molestation or sexual advances toward them when they were young girls. “Roy Moore needs to go,” Jayapal wrote. “GOP members should be telling him that.”
State Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, has retweeted several condemnations of Moore, including a call for a criminal investigation and a statement that claims about the Republican didn’t need to be proven to deem him “unfit for office.”
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Yet this spring and summer, as four men came forward to publicly accuse Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of raping them or paying them for sex as teenagers, those same politicians remained mostly quiet about their fellow Democrat.
Like many in the city’s liberal political establishment, they never publicly sought Murray’s resignation.
Murray resigned Sept. 12, hours after a fifth man — his younger cousin — came forward with claims that he’d been sexually abused by Murray in the late 1970s. Murray has not been charged with any crime and has denied all the allegations against him.
The arguable double standard has not gone unnoticed in local political circles, where some are rethinking their response to the Murray scandal. While old political alliances played a role, the accusations also preceded the avalanche of sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the MeToo movement that has elevated awareness of victims’ stories.
“Seattle leadership by and large got the Ed Murray response totally wrong,” said Jessyn Farrell, a former Democratic state representative who unsuccessfully ran for mayor this year.
Farrell includes herself in that statement. She had decried “the politics of personal destruction” earlier this year after one of Murray’s accusers temporarily dropped a lawsuit against him. She later joined calls for Murray’s resignation after reports that an Oregon child-welfare investigator had concluded he sexually abused his foster son in the 1980s.
“Absolutely, people should have spoken up earlier,” said Julia Ricciardi, co-chair of Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission, which asked Murray to resign in a July letter.
“I could go on and on about the leaders of our city who waited until the final hour,” she added, pointing to Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan, who called for Murray to quit only after the fifth accuser emerged.
Only two of nine members the Seattle City Council, M. Lorena González and Kshama Sawant, publicly pressured Murray to step down this year. Four former Seattle mayors issued a public letter in July saying Murray should be allowed to serve out his term.
In Alabama, some Republicans have defended Moore and, like the candidate himself, denounced the allegations as lies spread by political opponents and hostile media.
Similar tactics were used by some of Murray’s defenders, as the mayor initially attacked The Seattle Times’ reporting and pointed to the lengthy criminal records of his accusers in an effort to discredit them.
Podlodowski initially sounded sympathetic to Murray’s suggestion that allegations against him were part of an anti-gay conspiracy. “It would be reasonable to ask the question about any political motivation,” she said an April radio interview.
Asked about her comments last week, Podlodowski said she should have handled the Murray allegations differently.
“When I heard the allegations of sexual assault, I was shocked. But we had been friends for over 30 years and, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I had a knee-jerk reaction to allegations of pedophilia against a gay mayor,” Podlodowski said in an email through a spokeswoman.
Such allegations have been used in the past to “marginalize and denigrate” the LGBTQ community, she said.
But, Podlodowski added: “I absolutely should have been more vocal at the time in calling for Ed Murray to resign as mayor and I’m sorry that I wasn’t.”
Tarleton stands by her anti-Moore tweets, noting the Alabama lawyer twice had been ousted from that state’s Supreme Court for refusing to obey legal orders related to a Ten Commandments display and same-sex marriage.
As for Murray, Tarleton said she didn’t know him well and doesn’t think who serves as Seattle mayor is nearly as consequential as the fight for control of the U.S. Senate. “I don’t equate it to a mayoral race. I just don’t,” she said.
Still, the Ballard lawmaker acknowledged it’s also easier to pop off about a politician thousands of miles away than one in her own backyard.
“Sometimes you just have to pick where you feel you have to weigh in,” she said. “I am a Seattle legislator. I have to deal with the City Council, I have to deal with the mayor’s office. I have to deal with city employees,” she said. “I am more careful about assessments I make (locally), I have to admit, than I am about Alabama.”
Omer Farooque, a spokesman for Jayapal, pointed out that the congresswoman last week criticized Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who faces a Senate ethics probe after a Los Angeles radio anchor said he forcibly kissed her and groped her during a 2006 USO tour.
Jayapal tweeted “sexual harassment is a problem on both sides of the aisle, and we must speak out against it every time it happens. Very disappointed in Al Franken, whose good work does not erase this demeaning conduct.”
Farrell, the former state representative, said she’s been introspective amid the recent flood of revelations of sexual misconduct and the response of people in positions of authority.
“We have really excused perpetrators. Both directly and through silence. And that is what has to change,” she said. “Those of us who have a great deal of power need to approach this with a great deal of humility.”