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In wake of rape allegations, Seattle mayor drops out of race

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Tuesday he will not run for re-election as he deals with a sexual abuse lawsuit.

Murray made the announcement at the Alki Beach Bathhouse flanked by his husband, Michael Shiosaki, staff and supporters who greeted him with loud applause as he walked into the room.

“It tears me to pieces to step away, but I believe it is in the best interests of this city that I love," Murray said.

He said the campaign for mayor should remain focused on the issues facing the city, "not on a scandal, as it would be if I remained in the race."

Murray had been saying he would run for a second term, despite fallout from a civil lawsuit filed last month that accuses him of sexually abusing an underage teen in the 1980s. Three other men have come forward to say that Murray abused them when they were teens in Portland or Seattle.

“The allegations against me are not true and I say that honestly and in the deepest sincerity," Murray said at the press conference Tuesday.

Murray has been criticized by victims' rights advocates for saying that the accusers’ criminal records cast doubt on their stories.

Murray has also sought to portray the allegations as an attempt to hurt him politically. Lawyers for Delvonn Heckard, the man who filed the lawsuit, have denied that.

Jeff Simpson, another man who has accused Murray, but is not part of the lawsuit, has said that he is seeking some peace.

“My biggest hope is that he gets the help that he needs and admits it so that the rest of us survivors that have survived what he has done to us as kids can finally get closure,” Simpson said last month.

Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess said he respects Murray's decision not to seek reelection.

"I think he's done an excellent job as mayor," Burgess said following the announcement. "I think he made a courageous decision for the people of Seattle. He put them first and I applaud him for that."

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole echoed this sentiment, saying Murray made a "selfless decision."

"This allows the business of government to be more focused on just doing that, which is our job," said Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson.

Murray's announcement comes the week before the election filing window opens May 15. The filing deadline is May 19.

Already, several other candidates have announced their intention to run for mayor this year, including former mayor Mike McGinn, state Sen. Bob Hasegawa, activist Cary Moon and educator Nikkita Oliver.

Murray said he will remain in office through the rest of his term, which ends December 31.

In a statement, Moon thanked Murray for his years of public service, which also span the state House and Senate. But she criticized how he and his defense team have spoken about his accusers and said Murray should step down from office now.

"An aggressive legal fight, where Mayor Murray feels compelled to use all the power of his position as a public official to demean and even silence his accusers, is deeply divisive to our community and triggering for survivors of sexual assault," the statement said.

McGinn also called for Murray's resignation on Twitter.

Simpson, one of Murray's accusers, said that not seeking reelection wasn't enough.

"That's not admitting, and that's not being honest and truthful on something like this that has devastated the lives of four people that the public know [of]," he said.

Lincoln Beauregard, a lawyer for Heckard in the lawsuit, tweeted out a statement that called Murray unfit for office.

Mounting legal fees

There's an effort underway to help Murray pay legal costs to defend himself in the sexual abuse lawsuit.

A letter asks the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission whether a special trust fund dedicated to Murray's defense would comply with city law. The letter was sent by two lawyers who say they represent the Ed Murray Legal Defense Fund.

They say Murray's legal costs could hit $1 million and he doesn't have the personal resources for that.

Beauregard posted a statement online saying that the legal defense fund is "unlawful and morally wrong."

The commission is planning a meeting next week to respond.

Amy Radil, Kate Walters Kara McDermott, Paige Browning and Gil Aegerter contributed to this story.

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