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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday that he will not run for re-election this year. He made the announcement to reporters and supporters during a press conference at Alki Beach Bathhouse.
Murray, once considered a strong favorite to win a second term, saw his political fortunes weakened after a Kent man filed a civil suit last month alleging Murray abused him sexually in the 1980s. At the time of the alleged abuse, the accuser was a minor.
"The scandal surrounding [the allegations] and me is hurting this city. It hurts those who have been victims of abuse. It hurts my family. It hurts Michael. For these reasons, I am announcing that I am withdrawing as a candidate for mayor," Murray said.
In the weeks since the suit was made public, Murray has insisted the charges are untrue and politically motivated. He had repeatedly said that he is running for a second term.
"This campaign for mayor -- any campaign for mayor -- for mayor must be about the future of this city, about the actions we must take to be a more equitable city, about the actions we must take to make this a more affordable city, about the actions we must take to solve our homeless crisis, about the actions we must take to address growth and livability. These are real and urgent and important issues before this city. The mayor’s race should be must be focused on these issues, not on a scandal, which it would be focused on if I were to remain in this race," Murray said.
Murray was surrounded by supporters, and elected officials, as he made the announcement. Councilmember Tim Burgess said after the statement that Murray is "being a very courageous leader now and putting the people of Seattle first." Councilmember Sally Bagshaw added that "I'm proud of the work he's done, and that I was able to stand beside him."
Former three-term Seattle Mayor Charlie Royer said it would have been tough for Murray to continue.
"I think he's doing the right thing," said Royer. "You cannot do that job and be in a street fight with these lawyers, who are coming at him publicly and politically."
Royer said he believed Murray could effectively lead in the months to come before his terms ends, as did he.
"A lot of weight came off my shoulders when I knew I wasn't going to have to be there," Royer said.
State Sen. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, replaced Murray in the Senate, and has been long time friends with the Mayor. But even he acknowledged the political reality facing Murray.
"I think his decision was very selfless," Pederson said. "If he had chosen to stay running, that many other people that would have supported him would not have put their names forward to be considered for mayor, and there is a significant chance he may not have won, and we would have ended up with a mayor who was considerably less talented."
The mayor's announcement comes a week after a fourth man came forward to say Murray also abused him sexually in the 1980s when the victim was still a minor.
In all, four men claim Murray sexually abused them, paying for sex that the then-minor-age men used to pay for drugs. Only one man, Delvonn Heckard, has filed a lawsuit.
Heckard commented on Murray remaining in office in video clips that Heckard's lawyer Lincoln Beauregard tweeted Monday afternoon saying he just wants the truth to be out there.
"For him to sit there and lie, (it) just really let me know that this man should not be in the position he's in," Heckard said in the video.
Delvonn Heckard speaks on video to the issue of Mayor Murray remaining in office. pic.twitter.com/9bRtyMwcdA- LincolnLawyer (@quietplease321) May 8, 2017
Since the allegations surfaced in early April, the mayor has kept a regular schedule of both official and campaign events, holding a fundraiser as recently as last Wednesday.
On April 17, Murray said the abuse allegations wouldn't deter his re-election efforts. "I do believe I have a political future. I really do. I believe I have a great record to run on. I feel like I have a great story to tell going forward about what I want to do for this city, what I am doing for this city. And I believe this is a fair city that will give me a chance," he said.
While Murray's campaign pointed to "a strong base of support and continued momentum," the chairman of the King County Democrats said last week "the party is divided over the issue."
Sources also said separate polling by both the mayor's campaign and the business and labor community showed Murray's chances of winning re-election have been diminished by the allegation. KING 5 has not seen results of the polls.
Speculation is also growing that additional candidates could jump into the mayoral race ahead of the May 19 filing deadline.
State Senator Bob Hasegawa, a longtime labor organizer, and 2016 Bernie Sanders delegate is the latest candidate to announce he plans to run for Seattle Mayor.
Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan is also rumored to be strongly considering a run. Durkan has not confirmed nor denied the reports.
Ten challengers have already filed in the race, including former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, urban planner Cary Moon, and attorney and organizer Nikkita Oliver.
The August 1 primary will narrow the field to two candidates ahead of the November general election.
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