[Initially this article was titled, "McGinn Camp Implies Murray Was Racist." We changed it to let readers make up their own minds about the accusations that McGinn's campaign made against Murray today.—Eds.]
At a press conference announcing the endorsements of several local minority groups and churches this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn's proxies said state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) had quietly supported I-200, the 1998 anti-affirmative-action law.
Former state representative Velma Veloria, who represented South Seattle's 11th District, said Murray told members of the house Democratic caucus that he opposed legislation proposed by the late Rep. Kip Tokuda (D-37), a former advisor to and major supporter of the McGinn campaign, that would have replaced I-200 and preserved affirmative action in Washington state.
"The shock that I felt had a lot to do with the fact that he only felt that he could fight for civil rights for gays and lesbians and did not want to include people of color," Veloria said today, claiming Murray believed women and racial minorities—unlike gays and lesbians—had already achieved equality and didn't need additional legal support.
Veloria (who is Filipina) claimed today that Murray opposed Tokuda's legislation behind the scenes because Murray believed racial minorities and women had achieved parity and that affirmative action was therefore no longer necessary. Veloria's charge was especially dramatic because Murray actually cosponsored the Tokuda legislation.
"The shock that I felt had a lot to do with the fact that he only felt that he could fight for civil rights for gays and lesbians and did not want to include people of color," Veloria said today, claiming Murray believed discrimination against gays and lebsians was the real priority.
Murray led the fight for gay marriage in the state legislature, passing an antidiscrimination bill in 2006 and, after a series of domestic partnership bills, a full-fledged gay marriage bill last year.
Asked by a Seattle Times reporter today whether McGinn supporters were calling Murray a racist, Japanese American Citizens League representative Frankie Irigon [NOTE: Initially, we inaccurately attributed this quote to past JACL president Bill Tashima instead of Irigon; we regret the error] said, "We are not calling him a racist. Some people, over time, metamorphosize in their thinking, and I think he has metamorphasized in his thinking and decided that now he is a liberal."
Irigon added that Tokuda was "very angry...two days before he died" about Murray's position on I-200. (Tokuda died of a heart attack earlier this year).
Murray spokesman Sandeep Kaushik called the McGinn camp's intimations of racism absurd. "I’m flatly saying it’s false and it’s despeciable and it’s untrue—it’s a sleazy attack," Kaushik said.
We have a call out to Murray himself as well as former state Rep. Dawn Mason, (D-37), a Murray supporter who was one of the few African American members of the house Democratic at the time, for her recollections of the I-200 debate.
In addition to Mason's endorsement, which Murray announced last week along with African American state Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, SE Seattle), Murray has been endorsed by former African American King County Executive Ron Sims.
The only African American King County Council member, Larry Gossett, was at McGinn's press conference today; Gossett has endorsed McGinn.
McGinn's press conference strikes us as pretty ugly stuff; for a campaign that's been notably combative already, even we were surprised at the tone of today's announcement with it's implications about Murray's commitment to racial justice.
Editor's note: Erica has a follow-up story here—with comments from Murray plus Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish), who was part of the I-200 negotiations and disputes the claim that Murray was against affirmative action.