State Sen. Bob Hasegawa has announced he’s running for mayor of Seattle amid widespread speculation that Mayor Ed Murray may drop out of the race. As Murray battles a sex-abuse lawsuit, his supporters are asking the city’s ethics commission to OK a legal-defense fund.
Amid widespread speculation that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray may end his campaign for re-election Tuesday, state Sen. Bob Hasegawa on Monday announced a bid.
And the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission revealed that Murray supporters want to set up a legal-defense fund as the mayor battles a child sexual-abuse lawsuit.
The flurry of news in the city’s once-sleepy race came a month after Murray was sued and a week before the period during which candidates must officially file.
No one in the mayor’s inner circle was willing to go on the record Monday to say Murray intends to leave the race.
But there were rumors he would do just that, despite strenuously denying the allegations by the Kent man suing him and by other men.
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Hasegawa, a Seattle Democrat, said he’s been planning to run regardless of Murray’s presence in the race. But announcing Monday gives him a head-start on others who may jump in if the mayor drops out.
The 64-year-old said he would kick off his bid Tuesday with a news conference on the steps of the downtown Wells Fargo Center “to highlight the need for a municipal bank as the linchpin for his economic justice agenda.”
A former Teamsters Local 174 leader, who lives today in the Beacon Hill neighborhood where he grew up, Hasegawa has served in the the Legislature since 2005, first in the House of Representatives and more recently in the Senate.
He was a Bernie Sanders delegate to last year’s Democratic National Conventionand in Olympia has advocated for a state income tax and a state-run bank.
In 2013, he voted against billions of dollars in Boeing tax breaks, when the company was threatening to build its new 777X plant elsewhere.
Hasegawa is barred from raising money for his mayoral campaign as long as the Legislature is in session, and that could remain the case through August’s primary election, he said.
“I see it as more an opportunity than a challenge because this campaign is about rebuilding political power for the people,” he said.
The ethics commission has scheduled a special meeting for May 16 to discuss the Murray defense fund. The mayor’s supporters have asked for an advisory opinion.
Paul Lawrence, an attorney with the Pacifica Law Group, made the request in a letter on May 1, saying an “effective defense” for Murray could cost $1 million or more.
“We represent the Ed Murray Legal Defense Fund, an independent trust being created to help defray the legal expenses that the mayor of Seattle, Edward B. Murray, must incur to defend himself in an ongoing civil lawsuit,” the letter says.
“The allegations in the suit are controversial and, especially given its timing, the suit is politically charged. The mayor, a lifelong public servant, does not have the personal resources needed to fund his own legal defense.”
The letter adds, “In these circumstances, concerned citizens should be allowed to raise or contribute funds to help defray legal expenses for a public official under attack, provided that adequate steps are taken to avoid any ethical conflicts.”
It asks the commission for a written opinion that its proposed activities would comply with city law. The letter says Washington state and Seattle have not enacted laws specific to legal-defense funds in support of public officials.
It says the trustee overseeing the fund will be Martha Choe Murray was an aide to Choe when she was a member of the City Council in the 1990s.
“If the fund is run independently from the city official, there is no opportunity for a misuse of public office for personal gain,” the letter said.
“And if contributions to the fund are anonymous, there can be no improper attempt to obtain special consideration or influence.”
Ending his campaign could make the handling of Murray’s legal-defense less complicated and improve the chances of the ethics commission clearing the fund.
Contributors to the fund would be required to sign confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, according to the letter.
The mayor, who owns a house on Capitol Hill, recently estimated his own net worth at $1.8 million in a personal financial affairs statement filed with the ethics commission, the Seattle City Council Insight blog reported.
A 46-year-old Kent man, Delvonn Heckard, sued the mayor last month, alleging that Murray sexually abused him when he was a teenager in the 1980s.
Two other men have made similar claims separate from the lawsuit, and a fourth man last week signed a declaration in Heckard’s suit saying that Murray had paid him for sex.
Other prominent candidates for mayor include artist and educator Nikkita Oliver, who entered the race before Murray was sued, as well as former Mayor Mike McGinn and urban planner Cary Moon, who announced after Heckard filed.