Kelly O

Dear Mayor Ed Murray,

Rumors suggest you might drop out of the mayoral race as early as this week. In the interests of the city and survivors of sexual assault, we hope the rumors are true.

To be clear, we’re not proclaiming your guilt or innocence in a civil case alleging you sexually assaulted a teenager in the 1980s. Our conclusion that you should not seek re-election comes in reaction to the way you’ve handled the accusations against you.

Most troubling are the attacks you’ve levied on your accusers. In response to an accusation of child sex abuse from Jeff Simpson, separate from the civil case, you have claimed he can't be trusted because of his criminal record, a claim you repeated in an op-ed published on this website.

Research shows that criminal histories aren’t a reliable indicator of truth and the criminal justice system, as you’re aware, disproportionately ravages poor and minority communities. By emphasizing the rap sheets of your accusers, you are perpetuating the kind of unjust stigmas you’ve worked hard against in other areas. On top of that, you’re sending a dangerous message to survivors with imperfect pasts that their stories won’t be heard—and a message to society at large that people with criminal histories shouldn't be believed.

Each day you employ these tactics in an increasingly competitive mayor's race, you harm survivors of sexual assault and those currently experiencing abuse who are wondering whether to come forward. It would appear you are unable to separate your roles as a candidate for public office and a defendant in a child sex abuse lawsuit.

You have also claimed these allegations are a politically-motivated effort to unseat a gay mayor. When asked directly if they are against gay marriage or gay people, both Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson said they weren’t. The other two accusers, Maurice Lavon Jones and Delvonn Heckard, say they are gay. While it’s true the founder of the firm representing Heckard has supported anti-LGBT causes, the lawyer working directly on the case has not. Evidence of a homophobic political conspiracy is thin.

Your attacks on journalists for doing their job are also dangerous in a national setting where the president regularly declares legitimate, but unfavorable coverage, as “fake news.” In your editorial on this site, you criticized the Seattle Times for publishing a well-reported story with clear newsworthiness. Your advisors have reportedly blacklisted KUOW for annotating that same editorial. While your team has answered some of our inquiries, we don't feel you've been as forthcoming and transparent as the circumstances demand. This disdain for our right to ask questions is contrary to the spirit of a free press.

As Danni Askini, the LGBT activist and sexual abuse survivor, courageously wrote in this space two days after your editorial ran, this is "a story about leadership and the choices we make in the face of the most withering of circumstances." And in these circumstances, you have failed.

Seattleites also deserve local leaders who are willing to address the effects these accusations and the mayor's responses to them have had on our own citizens. Among our city council members, only Kshama Sawant has made a statement reminding survivors of sexual assault that Seattle stands with them. The silence from the other eight members is hypocritical and disappointing.

From taking up the cause of raising the minimum wage, to bringing developers and affordable housing advocates to the table, to your groundbreaking work on advancing LGBT equality during your tenure in the state legislature, you've made a positive mark on this city and this state. But your response to these allegations has eroded public trust in your leadership.

We ask that you don't seek re-election.