In a stunning editorial, the Seattle Times has called on embattled Mayor Ed Murray to drop his bid for re-election amid a controversy over alleged child sexual abuse some 30 years ago that prompted the newspaper to use the terms “bizarre” in relation to a news conference and “sordid” in relation to the political melodrama.
Buried in the editorial is a swipe at Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, the avowed Socialist who has been a lightning rod of controversy and criticism since taking office a couple of years ago. The editorial board suggested that if Murray runs under the “cloud” of controversy that erupted when he was sued earlier this month by an alleged victim, “it increases the possibility of a Mayor Kshama Sawant, or some other extreme left-wing ideologue, steering this booming city wildly off course.”
Sawant jumped into the spotlight by addressing the allegations after City Council President Bruce Harrell issued a statement that he and other council members would not be making any comment. Sawant opposes putting the mayor on trial “in a court of public opinion.” That has certainly been happening.
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Beneath the surface are concerns about Seattle’s image to the nation, if not the world. The city has become a magnet for foreign workers seeking work in the tech industry, and it is also a tourist destination and jumping-off point for Alaska-bound cruise ships.
The city, under Murray, has also made headlines for battling President Donald Trump over immigration and so-called “sanctuary” status. Additionally, his effort to expand services for the homeless by pushing for a county-wide sales tax to pay for it, and his proposal for a “safe injection site” for drug abusers has infuriated a lot of people. Coincidentally, the city is cracking down on one homeless camp.
Then came the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, by a 46-year-old man who claimed that he had been sexually abused by Murray starting in 1986. When that story broke, the Seattle Times also reported other allegations dating back to Murray’s time in Oregon that surfaced about ten years ago. The newspaper acknowledged that it “chose not to publish the 2008 allegations” but said the similarities between those claims and the ones in the lawsuit “gave additional weight and relevance to the previous information.”
Murray has vigorously denied the allegations, to the point that he reportedly was examined by a doctor earlier this week to check the veracity of details about his anatomy. Murray’s attorney told reporters afterwards that the examination “disproves” the allegations.
Murray, an openly gay liberal Democrat, has been something of a political icon in Seattle. But now, the newspaper editorial suggested, he may become a political albatross. Here’s how the editorial couched it:
“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?”
What, indeed? The newspaper noted that the mayor “should defend himself against the lawsuit,” but later added that this may not be sorted out for months, or possibly years. In the meantime, the allegations will “dog Murray at every event, every debate.”
The editorial also notes that the mayor has dedicated defenders who see “the lawsuit and related allegations as well-timed political payback for his iconic career as a gay civil-rights champion.” Many Seattle Times readers, including those who identify themselves as “no fans” of the mayor, are suggesting that Murray deserves his day in court before ever stepping aside. But the newspaper summed it up.
“Seattle at this moment needs a strong executive to manage the city’s unprecedented growth,” the Times argued, “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,” the newspaper added, “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.”