News Roundup

Week in Review: Mayoral Candidates, GOP Health Care, and James Comey

A wrap-up of this week's news in politics.

By Liz Weber May 12, 2017

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Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray hold a joint press conference on May 5.

City of Seattle

Monday morning Seattle mayor Ed Murray officially announced the end to his bid for reelection. Speaking at Alki Beach Bathhouse in West Seattle, Murray said, “It tears me to pieces to step away, but I believe it is in the best interest of the city that I love." Speculations began over the weekend that Murray, currently battling charges of child rape and sexual assault, would step away from his campaign.

Former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan finally announced her mayoral campaign with a press conference Friday morning. Durkan marks the 13th candidate to officially announce but with the May 19 deadline a week away, there's still time for Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez to add her name to the growing list. "She's certainly considering that opportunity and will have much more to say in the next few days," Chris Sinderman, Gonzalez's political consultant, said to PubliCola

On the same day Murray announced his withdrawal from the race, state senator Bob Hasegawa of the 11th District officially threw his hat in the race. Holding a press conference at the downtown Wells Fargo Center, Hasegawa is another high-profile candidate with an anti-corporate platform and a good political resume. Hasegawa has been a state legislator for the past 12 years, first serving as a state representative in 2005 before taking office as a state senator in 2013. 

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission will meet on May 16 to review whether supporters can gather a $1 million legal defense fund for mayor Ed Murray, The Seattle Times reported Monday. In a formal letter submitted on May 1, Pacifica Law Group—representing the fund—asked for a review and an advisory opinion, believing that "concerned citizens should be allowed to raise or contribute funds to help defray legal expenses for a public official under attack, provided that adequate steps are taken to avoid any ethical conflicts." As Murray, with an estimated net worth of $1.8 million, ends his campaign for reelection, it's expected to simplify the handling of his defense fund and the ethics commission's decision.

Seattle council members also passed its first-quarter supplemental budget on Monday, dedicating funds for two new positions in the City Attorney's Office. The new hires will support Seattle's new firearm surrender program to seize illegal firearms in domestic violence cases. 

Finally, state representative Jessyn Farrell announced her run for mayor this morning and has the backing of lieutenant governor Cyrus Habib.

State Politics

Washington joined California, New Mexico, and New York on Tuesday in a lawsuit against president Donald Trump's administration and its decision to restart the coal lease program on public lands. Attorney general Bob Ferguson argues interior secretary Ryan Zinke's decision without updating the 40-year-old environmental report is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In 2016, the Obama administration halted all new coal leases on federal lands, saying it was time to review the environmental and health impacts. The joint lawsuit calls for an injunction halting the program unless the administration completes the required environmental impact report. 

Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson on Thursday also signed a letter calling for a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the 2016 election, The Seattle Times reported. Initiated by the Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, there are now 20 total attorneys general who have signed and urge Trump to "consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation."

Trump Versus Washington Democrats

U.S. senator Patty Murray—a ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee—slammed the GOP on Thursday after Democrats on the committee tasked with health care weren't involved in drafting a Senate health care bill, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday. In a joint press conference with senator Maria Cantwell last Friday, Murray said the House bill was a "nonstarter." 

Senate Republicans are drafting their own legislation privately, bypassing the committee process, after the House GOP narrowly passed its health care bill last week—without a CBO score, which determines how much a legislation is going to cost. Leslie Pollner, Seattle's federal lobbyist, in a council briefing Monday said Republicans have always insisted "you could not have legislation without a score. This was an interesting turn." 

Trump fired FBI director James Comey late Tuesday as the agency leads the investigation into whether Trump's campaign had connections with the Russian government to influence the election.

U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal, along with the rest of her Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, on Thursday also demanded an investigation into Comey's firing.

POLITICO initially published an article listing our own Congressman Dave Reichert as a possible replacement. In an email to PubliCola on Thursday, Reichert's spokesperson Brianna Deutsch said, "We have not been contacted. However, the congressman has always considered every opportunity to serve our country."

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