Seattle’s gay mayor, Edward Murray, announced on Tuesday that he was withdrawing from his bid for re-election to a second term, ending his decades-long career in state and local politics in which he became known as a champion for LGBT rights.
His announcement came one month after he characterized as baseless allegations in a lawsuit filed against him that he paid a 15-year-old male for sex in the 1980s and vowed to fight the charges and continue his race for re-election.
In an emotional news conference on Tuesday, with his husband and longtime supporters standing beside him, Murray reiterated his earlier assertions that the allegations were politically motivated and completely unfounded but had become a distraction to his campaign.
“The mayoral race must be focused on the urgent, important issues facing our city, but those are being overshadowed by the false allegations against me, which have hurt the city, my family and Michael,” he said in referring to his husband Michael Shiosaki.
“It tears me to pieces to step away,” the Seattle Times quoted him as saying. “But I believe it is in the best interest of this city that I love,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
In a statement released by his office Murray said he would remain in office until his current term ends in January 2018.
The lawsuit was filed April 4 by Kent County, Wash., resident Dalvonn Heckard, 46, who alleges that when he was 15 in 1986 Murray persuaded him to accept money for sex on multiple occasions.
Heckard initially filed his lawsuit using only his initials. His attorney said Heckard decided to disclose his name after learning that two other men who have also accused Murray of having sex with them in the 1980s when they were teenagers chose to reveal their names.
Murray, 61, and his attorney released statements shortly after the lawsuit was filed calling the accusations by all three men false and politically motivated at a time when Murray was running for re-election.
“Let me be clear: These allegations dating back to more than a period of 30 years are simply not true,” Murray said in a statement. “I will not back down now. I will continue to be mayor of this city. I will continue to run for re-election,” he said.
But the Seattle Times reports that the allegations swirling around Murray intensified last week when a fourth man, Maurice Lavon Jones, signed a sworn affidavit in support of Heckard’s case saying that he, too, had been paid for sex by Murray as a teenager in the 1980s.
The statement released by Murray’s office on Tuesday highlighted his accomplishments as mayor, including aggressive efforts to address Seattle’s longstanding problem of homelessness, his successful push for the nation’s first $15 minimum wage in a major city, and a program to increase affording housing.
His supporters in the LGBT community have said Murray played a key role in the state legislature’s approval more than a decade ago of an LGBT non-discrimination law and efforts to bring about marriage equality.
“I am proud to have been part of some remarkable achievement that, for my entire life, people told me would never happen – from the civil rights bill to the ring I wear on my finger – and I plan to continuing fighting for equity long after I am mayor,” he said. “To the people of Seattle, thank you for the opportunity to serve you and this great city for more than two decades.”