Seattle mayoral candidate Lance Randall on Wednesday attributed a decades-old child cruelty charge to a bitter divorce and said he regrets “the ugliness of politics has touched my children.”

Speaking at a sparsely attended news conference outside Seattle City Hall, Randall said his campaign “is gaining momentum by the hour.”

Randall was charged in March 1999 in Georgia with cruelty to a child after striking his 11-year-old son, causing “deep and painful bruising,” court records show.

He eventually pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of reckless conduct and received a suspended sentence of probation. Under a Georgia first-time offender law, Randall’s record was discharged in 2004, meaning he legally has no criminal record.

At the news conference, Randall said he’d spanked his son with a paddle “as a last resort” after the boy had repeatedly misbehaved in school. His ex-wife, seeing the extensive bruising, reported it to police, leading prosecutors to file the felony child-cruelty charge.

In an interview, Yulanda Dailey, his ex-wife, described the beating done with a fraternity paddle as “so bad, I couldn’t believe it.” Randall’s son said in a recent interview he recalled the incident and has been estranged from his father for years.

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Randall said he agreed to a plea even though Georgia child-services investigators determined he was not abusive. “I accepted those terms rather than put my children through an extended court battle,” he said.

He noted he’d retained custody of the couple’s four children even after the plea. They later chose to move in with his ex-wife when she moved to Maryland.

“There was a lot of emotion involved on all sides,” Randall said. “Those emotions set the stage for charges that have coincidentally resurfaced just as ballots are being mailed for Seattle’s primary mayoral election.”

Randall comes from a prominent Macon, Georgia, family and the cruelty charge had come up when he ran unsuccessfully for local office there in 2004. He moved to Seattle in 2007 to take a job the city’s economic development office.

He has raised nearly $67,000 for his mayoral campaign, from nearly 600 contributors, but is considered a longshot to make it past the Aug. 3 primary.

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For more information about voting, ballot drop boxes, accessible voting and online ballots, contact your county elections office. Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Aug. 3.

For more information on your ballot, in any county, go to: myvote.wa.gov