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Seattle ushers in new mayor after Murray resignation

Seattle has a new mayor.

Mayor Ed Murray tendered his resignation on Tuesday afternoon after a fifth man came forward to say the mayor had abused him as a young teenager.

By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Council president, took the oath of office.

Harrell has five days as mayor to decide whether he wants to keep the job through November. That’s when voters will choose either Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon as Seattle mayor. The mayor elect could be sworn in as early as November, rather than January, as would normally be the case. (The intricacies of the city charter are still being examined, as this situation hasn't come up before.)

If Harrell chooses to remain mayor beyond next week, he would have to relinquish his council spot.

He said he would make this decision by 5 p.m. on Friday. That's when he could decide to stay on or ask the council to elect another member to be mayor. If the council chooses Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, she could resume being a council member. She is up for election, so if she were to win — and she is the favorite — she could return to her position.  

The allegations against Murray came to light in April, when The Seattle Times reported that a man had filed suit against Murray for paying him for sex when he was 15. Two other men were also quoted in the story, saying that Murray had abused them as teenagers.

Murray denied these allegations vehemently, alleging a political and homophobic conspiracy.

The fifth man to accuse Murray was his cousin once removed, from New York. Murray was living with his cousin; he shared a room with her 13-year-old son. 

As these accusations surfaced, two Seattle council members, Lorena Gonzalez and Kshama Sawant, called on Murray to resign. The others either stayed mum or stood by Murray.

Mayor Harrell defended Murray throughout.

“I’m not asking him to step down,” Harrell told reporters in July. “Is he doing his job? I haven’t heard any of you say he’s not doing his job every single day. That governs whether he should step down or not. Now, if I see some indication he’s abdicated his responsibility and the people of Seattle are suffering because of that, then we’ll have a conversation. I’m not afraid to ask anyone to step down.”

He added in the same press briefing that Seattle residents “did not ask us to judge anyone for something that happened 33 years ago or maybe didn’t happen."

He continued: “I would challenge each of you to think about where you were 33 years ago. The question is are you doing your job today right now?”

Harrell was asked about this comment on Wednesday before being sworn in. He said that he was referring, in part, to prospective employees who were judged based on convictions earlier in their lives.

But, he said, "If any kind of heinous act was committed 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago, and the healing of the victim is part of the process of unveiling that, certainly a person should be judged for that." 

Harrell, 58, is a Seattle native who graduated from Garfield High. He played football for the University of Washington — 1978 Rose Bowl Champion — and later graduated from the UW’s law school. He was elected to the City Council in 2007. He lives in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood.