When it comes to the sex scandal surrounding Mayor Ed Murray, we haven’t heard much from people who knew him as a young man in the 1980s, when the abuse he’s accused of allegedly took place.
Brian Budds knew Murray back then. He donated $500 to the mayor’s reelection campaign, which is how we found him. He said he’s been a close friend of the mayor’s for 40 years.
“None of those allegations fit with the man that I knew,” Budds told us this week.
Murray and Budds became friends working at the public defender’s office in Portland, Oregon. Budds, who now lives in San Francisco, said the allegations of paying teens for sex would fit someone who was closeted and uncomfortable with their sexuality. That wasn’t Murray, he said.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that this would be going on,” Budds said. “We all as human beings have dark sides that others don’t know. But this is so completely out of character that it makes no sense whatsoever.”
Murray said on Tuesday morning that he would not seek reelection but would serve the rest of his term as Seattle’s mayor. His announcement comes a month after being accused in a civil lawsuit of paying a 15-year-old boy for sex. Three other men have also said Murray sexually abused them as teenagers.
Murray has vehemently denied those accusations, continuing to appear at city events and candidate forums. But last week rumors circulated that his reelection bid was in trouble. And on Tuesday, against the backdrop of the old West Seattle bathhouse near where he grew up, he said the distraction had become too much.
“The scandal surrounding them and me is hurting this city,” Murray said. “It hurts those who have been victims of abuse. It hurts my family. It hurts Michael” – his husband. “For these reasons I’m announcing that I’m withdrawing as a candidate for mayor.”
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse protested Murray’s response to the lawsuit because he called his accusers “troubled” and noted their criminal records. And his accusers say dropping out of the mayor’s race isn’t a sufficient response.
Jeff Simpson, one of Murray’s accusers, said he wants to see Murray resign. He currently works and lives in the Portland area with his family.
"I do forgive you, Ed, for what you've done to me,” he said. “You will get the freedom that you need and have no demons in your closet, but you need to be honest about everything."
Simpson continued: "I feel sorry and bad for Seattle because they've lost somebody that I believe cared about the issues, community, and he fought for people who were being oppressed and bullied."
Simpson tried to sue Murray for sexual abuse a decade ago but no lawsuit was filed. His attorney learned from Murray’s attorneys at the time that Simpson’s case had expired under the statute of limitations. Simpson is not involved in the lawsuit filed last month.
Simpson knew Murray when he was a foster child. Murray got to know him at a children’s home and eventually took him in. Budds, Murray’s old friend, remembered Simpson from when he lived with Murray. The teen was charming with adults, he said.
Simpson was around when the out gay men from the defender’s office met at Murrays’ home, Budds said.
“We would party at Ed’s house,” Budds said. “Jeff, the person at the basis of these charges, would see us all there. He knew we were all gay. This was not a picture as it’s been painted of someone lurking in the corners trying to take advantage of young men.”
Budds said Simpson “had failed miserably at all his foster families.”
And that Murray’s friends rallied around him when the relationship between Simpson and Murray broke down. “Ed had serious behavioral problems with Jeff when he was trying to take care of him,” he said.
“As soon as Ed said, and we were all friends of Ed’s, helping him through this – 'I cannot take this responsibility because of the behavioral difficulties' — came the first allegations,” Budds said.
Murray has said Simpson’s earlier claims and the current lawsuit are part of a political conspiracy against him. The attorney in the lawsuit filed last month, Lincoln Beauregard, has taken exception with that.
“Where the mayor went off the rails is when he accused us, including the attorneys, including me, of being part of a right-wing conspiracy,” Beauregard said. “He took it a step too far.”
A trial for the lawsuit filed last month isn’t scheduled to occur until 2018.
State Sen. Jamie Pedersen attended Murray’s announcement on Tuesday. He called it a tragic day for someone with Murray’s accomplishments in the state legislature and at the city. But he said the scandal threatened to upend the mayor’s race. He now expects some strong candidates to emerge.
“A lot of people who, in my judgment, would be fine candidates for mayor would not run if Ed continued to run,” Pedersen said. “His stepping aside opens up the field for people who could be very qualified successors.”
In order to focus on the future, for the sake of survivors & the city, I feel @mayoredmurray should resign.
— Mike McGinn (@mayormcginn) May 9, 2017
But the lawsuit and allegations remain — and they’ve left supporters feeling at a loss.
Louise Chernin was among the supporters streaming out after Murray’s announcement. She’s president and CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association. Chernin called it a sad day, especially with Murray’s record as an advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay and transgender people.
“I hope we are all reaching out to – whether it’s people who have been victims of sexual assault or have ever been accused and believed it was false, whatever it is. It is time for everyone to be there for each other and recognize that in this situation, there are a lot of victims,” she said.