On Friday afternoon, Seattle mayor Ed Murray addressed the press for the first time since allegations of child rape and molestation surfaced, firmly stating he would continue to run for reelection and had no plans to resign.
“To be on the receiving end of such untrue allegations is very painful for me, it is painful for my husband, and for those who are close to us. I understand the individual making these accusations is troubled, and that makes me sad as well,” Murray said in the statement. “But let me be clear. These allegations dating back to more than 30 years are simply not true. Things have never come easy to me in life, but I have never backed down and I will not back down now.”
A lawsuit filed Thursday against Murray alleged that he paid a man for intercourse and sexual acts starting in 1986, when the plaintiff was 15. In the wake of this news, The Seattle Times also reported two other men came forward with similar accusations in 2007, though they never filed charges.
The allegations are just allegations at this point; but regardless of the outcome, such serious accusations can’t help but implant doubt in the minds of voters who pride themselves on the sort of progressive values Murray made central to his career. In his four years as Seattle’s mayor he sued president Donald Trump over his attempt to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” made the $15 minimum wage happen, and strengthened anti-discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community—to name a few.
How many other mayors have faced serious allegations, and how did it impact their campaigns? Here’s a list of the most high-profile cases in the past 10 years. The accusations against Murray are far more damning than a lot, if not all, of these.
Kevin Johnson (Sacramento): The Sacramento mayor left office in 2016 without seeking a third term. A year before the election, details of sexual abuse allegations from summer 1996 resurfaced—a video of police interviewing the 16-year-old girl—as well as another allegation of sexual harassment from a former city hall employee. He paid the girl's family $230,000 to settle the case. The Sacramento Bee did report the allegations during his first mayoral campaign back in 2008, but he still won by a wide margin.
Vincent Gray (Washington, DC): He failed in his reelection bid for mayor of Washington, DC, in 2014 after a federal investigation into his campaign finances. Six of his employees pled guilty. But Gray made a political comeback last year and won a council seat, despite having the current DC mayor, Muriel Bowser, as an adversary who helped prop up his opponent.
Robert Bowser (East Orange, New Jersey): A former city employee filed a 2011 lawsuit against Bowser, the mayor of East Orange, New Jersey, and disclosed the depositions to council members during his reelection bid in 2013. The woman testified against the incumbent, alleging discrimination, sexual harassment, and oral sex in the mayor’s office. Bowser admitted to having a sexual relationship with his then-research assistant. He didn’t make it through the Democratic primary.
Sam Adams (Portland): This didn’t happen during his mayoral campaign, but it still made national news. Reports of his relationship with an 18-year-old man in 2005 surfaced shortly after he was elected mayor of Portland, Oregon, in 2008. He denied the relationship at first, then publicly apologized for lying and didn't resign. But it’s believed to have plagued his term in office, and he didn't run for a second term when 2012 rolled around. He is now the director of the World Resources Institute.
Gavin Newsom (San Francisco): The San Francisco incumbent was in the middle of a reelection campaign in 2007 when reports broke that he had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife. His aide, Alex Tourk, found out about the affair through his wife, confronted Newsom and resigned. Newsom was in the middle of a divorce at the time of the affair, and he publicly apologized after the story broke. The incumbent was still reelected in 2007 with 73 percent of the votes. The Democrat now serves as California’s lieutenant governor and running for governor in 2018.