If Mayor Ed Murray resigns, Council President Bruce Harrell will be first in line to become mayor.
If Mayor Ed Murray resigns, Council President Bruce Harrell will be first in line to become mayor. City of Seattle

Everywhere it's silence. In the hours after the Seattle Times broke the news yesterday that Mayor Ed Murray is being sued by a man who says he was raped by Murray when he was a teenager and Murray was in his 30s, most of Seattle's establishment political chattering class hasn’t said anything.

None of the nine Seattle City Council members responded to a request for comment. When I asked a couple of campaign insiders what this means for Murray’s reelection, they told me, essentially, let the body cool first. Murray reelection opponent Nikkita Oliver has not yet responded to a request for comment. Another of Murray’s opponents, Andres Salomon, said he was “still processing what I just read” and “the allegations speak toward our need to effectively fund safety nets for our young people.” UPDATE: Oliver issued a lengthy statement Friday night saying she has "no interest in commenting upon the specifics of the allegations."

At the most fundamental level, the scandal now presents Murray with two choices: Stay in office or get out.

If he resigns, Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell has five days to accept the mayorship, according to the city charter. If Harrell declines, the council will vote to select one of its members and then appoint someone to fill that council member's seat. If the mayor stays in office, the obvious next question is whether he stays in the race for reelection.

It’s not easy to imagine the mayor bowing out—even in the face of such disturbing allegations. Most days it seems Ed Murray's entire identity is being the mayor of Seattle. The spot offers enough power to play to his ego. It’s a small enough town to be a big fish; a big enough town to be relevant. Back when former Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott retired and some wondered if Murray would run for the seat, I asked Murray if he was considering it and he laughed. Why, he asked, would he ever want to give up being mayor?

Still, it's hard to see any other way this ends. The allegations remain just allegations, but the Times’ reporting lends some plausibility. And even if they prove unfounded, the damage is done. The mayor abruptly canceled a press conference about police accountability yesterday in advance of this news hitting, and it’s unclear when he’ll be willing to hold another one. With high profile efforts underway—addressing homelessness, debating police reform, suing the Trump administration—this issue will shadow Murray in both city hall and any mayoral debates, making it impossible to run a normal campaign.

Along with Oliver and Salomon, the local political consulting firm Moxie Media said yesterday they are working with a “viable, resourced potential challenger,” though the firm wouldn’t reveal who that is. The woman candidate has been considering running for several months, according to Moxie, and this news “may push up her decision making timeline.”

In his response to the civil lawsuit, filed on behalf a man going by the initials "D.H.," Murray has only denied the allegations through a spokesperson and lawyer. The mayor has not said anything about whether there may have been some other type of relationship between himself and the accuser, or even admitted to knowing him. The complaint in the case alleges, however, that the man knows Murray’s previous phone number, old address, layout of that apartment, and details about his body. The accuser's lawyers have asked to depose Murray next month and the complaint says a deposition should happen within the next 90 days. That sets the deadline as July 5—just one week before primary ballots are mailed and people begin voting.