After months of reports on sexual assault allegations, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is resigning effective 5pm Wednesday. Though the announcement satisfies calls from sexual assault survivor advocates for him to step down months earlier, it leaves unanswered questions for the city and what the council will look like in the next two months.
Council president Bruce Harrell will automatically become mayor as soon as Murray resigns Wednesday. But he still has another five days to decide whether to keep the position until November 28, when the newly elected mayor will get sworn in. And unless Harrell wants to be done with the Seattle City Council, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for him to take on the mayor's role.
Harrell was reelected in 2015 for a four-year term, and he'd be giving up another two years on the council to be mayor for less than two months. That would be true for almost any of the other council members, too—with the exception of Tim Burgess, who's retiring at the end of this year anyway, and council member Lorena González, who will likely get reelected and can return to the council in November for another four-year term; she received 64.2 percent in the August primary and is expected to be a shoo-in.
So here are the scenarios, according to Harrell's memo on the transition process:
Harrell becomes mayor for the next couple months. The council would have to appoint someone else to take Harrell's District 2 seat, and that person could serve on the council either for the rest of Harrell's term or until the next election.
- A 20-day period begins for filling the vacancy at a special full council meeting, where council members will vote on who takes the seat over.
- Council member will then have to vote on who should become the next council president for the remainder of this year.
Harrell declines to be mayor. Someone else on the city council would have to take the job for the next two months; Harrell would remain council president and on the council for the next two years.
- A five-day period begins for filling the mayoral vacancy at a special full council meeting. (This isn't a city charter rule but a step outlined in Harrell's memo.) Council members would vote on which councilor should take the position.
- A 20-day period begins for filling the council vacancy. There are only two seats on the council that would need just two months of an appointed council member—Burgess or González. Come November, either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda could fill the Seattle City Council Position 8 role as soon as he or she is elected.
- If Burgess were to take over, as chair of the finance committee, that complicates things as the city completes its final budget deliberations from September to November.
Or, González would be able to become mayor and, if reelected, come back to her Position 9 seat in November... having been the first Latina mayor.
Updated September 13, 2017, at 1:17pm to clarify a step not outlined in the charter and the date the new mayor would take office.