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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 12, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 19
End of the Ed Murray era
Section One
ALL STORIES
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End of the Ed Murray era

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Euripides should have written the story.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced he was dropping his re-election campaign on May 9. Only 40 days before, he looked like he was cruising to an easy victory and would go down in history not only as Seattle's first out Gay mayor but the first successful mayor in 20 years.

On April 6, however, it all changed. That was the day that lawyer Lincoln Beauregard filed a lawsuit charging that Murray paid for sex with his client, Delvonn Heckard, when Heckard was only 15.

The Seattle Times then ran a story charging that two other men also claimed to have had sex with Murray when they were underage. By the time Murray dropped out of the race, still another accuser entered the picture.

Murray denied the charges, and his backers stuck with him - not a single endorser withdrew their support - and when he finally announced he was dropping out of the race, many of them stood with him at the podium.

They were all there: Nicole Grant, the head of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council; Lee Newgent, leader of the State Building Trades Council; David Rolf of SEIU 775; Jamie Pedersen, who took Murray's State House seat and then his Senate seat as Murray climbed the political ladder.

The knot of Murray supporters was testimony to the best part of Murray's political history: his ability to deliver on promises and win over even the skeptics. He was going into the race for re-election with unanimous support from local unions, even the ones who'd backed his opponent, incumbent Mike McGinn, in 2013.

He also had endorsements from seven of the nine City Councilmembers, although, in the end, only Sally Bagshaw spoke up for him.

His staff was there too, although many were different from the ones he brought with him when he was inaugurated in 2014. The personnel changes testified to the rough patches in Murray's character. He was a hard-driving boss, and his legendary temper led some staffers to look for opportunities elsewhere.

'It tears me to pieces to step away,' Murray told his supporters at the dropping-out event at Alki Beach Bathhouse in the West Seattle neighborhood where he grew up.

Nevertheless, he added, 'I'm happy because I have been part of some remarkable achievements.'

Murray's achievements as a legislator were truly remarkable: the 2006 civil rights bill offering protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, the 2007 domestic partnership law, and the 2009 marriage equality bill.

As mayor, Murray presided over groundbreaking legislation: a $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance, paid sick days, secure scheduling requirements, and the creation of a City Bureau of Labor Standards to enforce these policies.

Murray also had his setbacks. In 1995 he ran for the State Senate seat left vacant by the death of Cal Anderson but lost to Pat Thibaudeau. He ran again for the 43rd District Senate seat in 2006, driving Thibaudeau out of the race.

In 2012, at the height of his influence in the State Senate, Murray was chosen as Senate Majority Leader, but fellow Democrat Rodney Tom jumped ship and aligned with Republican senators to hijack the Senate majority and deprive Murray of his position. The next year he ran for mayor.

'Things have never come easy to me in life, but I have never backed down, and I will not back down now,' was the way Murray summed up his career soon after Beauregard filed the lawsuit that ultimately ended his public life.

True enough, Murray got where he was by being a fighter, but his aggressive character mortally wounded him in the end.

Murray's response to the allegations was to attack Heckard and the other accusers. They were addicts, Murray said, petty criminals, and not to be believed. While true - Beauregard even published a photo showing one accuser sitting in King County Jail - Murray's charges opened the way for his political opponents to profess horror at his 'victim shaming.'

Probably only Ed Murray and his accusers know if the charges against the mayor are true, half true, or completely fabricated.

'My feeling is that it's tragic if it's true, and it's tragic if it's not true,' State Sen. Jamie Pedersen told the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat after Murray dropped his re-election bid.

'I know, a lot of people have asked me: 'Why are you here if you're not sure what the mayor is saying is true or not?' My answer is that no matter what happened 30 years ago, what I do know to be true is that he's been a great mayor for this city. We should have had another four years, maybe eight years, of his talent for this city. Now we won't.'

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