Mayor Murray walks past his husband, Michael Shiosaki, left, and his attorney, Bob Sulkin, before speaking to the media on Friday, April 7, 2017, in Seattle. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Ed Murray’s Campaign War Chest an Obstacle for Would-Be Challengers

Recent accusations of sexual misconduct open the door for candidates with similar politics, but the mayor’s early fundraising might have drained the pool of potential donors.

If Ed Murray’s re-election team isn’t having the April it hoped for, March left the campaign little to complain about.

Public disclosure forms filed by his re-election campaign this week show the incumbent hauled in $68,554 in contributions over the month of March, padding his already substantial $305,895 war chest. By comparison, opponent Nikkita Oliver raised $2,797 in the first month of her decidedly grassroots campaign. Murray raised a total of $869,000 during the entire 2013 campaign.

March appears to have been his second biggest fundraising month of the campaign, trailing only October, in which he raised $126,703. Murray’s early successes may prove important as other people contemplate jumping into the mayor’s race against the now-damaged incumbent.

While a lawsuit filed by a Kent man last week claiming Murray sexually abused him as a minor has clouded Murray’s re-election chances, the financial reports are evidence of the huge advantage he would have over any would-be challenger as the May 19 filing deadline approaches. And even as Murray is politically wounded, his fundraising could complicate others’ calculus on entering the race—considered an inevitable development of the scandal.

Were Murray to draw a challenger whose politics more or less aligns with the mayor’s, that candidate would be drawing from the same donor pool Murray has already raided, meaning she or he may have to ask donors to cut a second check for them. That won’t be a problem for some deep-pocketed donors, but for others it could be a tough sell.

“Often times getting checks and endorsements is kind of a first-come, first-served thing,” says Ben Anderstone, a political consultant with Progressive Strategies Northwest.

“If a candidate has a similar donor base to the mayor, that could be, if not prohibitive, it could make things more difficult,” he says. “From a candidate psychology perspective, those phone calls could be hard to make.”

That said, Anderstone doesn’t think Murray’s successful fundraising to date will prove to be a deciding factor in whether he draws serious challengers in the coming weeks.

“Any candidate whose donor base is so shallow” that Murray’s fundraising would cause serious problems “is going to have trouble in the first place,” he says.

It’s not yet clear how the Kent man’s allegations, detailed in a recent Seattle Times story that included earlier allegations from two Portland men who say Murray also sexually abused them as underage teenagers in the 1980s, have affected Murray’s fundraising. But there are reasons the story may give donors pause, beyond the charges themselves. The Times reported that in 2008 Murray used campaign funds to hire a lawyer to discredit the two Portland accusers when they came forward. (Those allegations resulted in neither a lawsuit nor any press reports.) The state Public Disclosure Commission, which regulates campaign funding, said this week that it would not investigate whether that was a proper use of funds, due to statute of limitations.

With the accusations again coming forward, Jeff Reading, Murray’s personal spokesman, says that no campaign funds are being used to fight the lawsuit. Asked whether he himself is being paid with campaign dollars, Reading wrote in an email that it is “being determined.”

Murray has vowed to keep runing for re-election. His next fundraiser is on May 3, at China Harbor Restaurant. No doubt the campaign hopes May will shape up better than April did.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

The Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity filed an appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner on Monday evening. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Coalition Appeals Zoning Changes

The 26-group coalition filed an appeal against proposed upzoning that aims to increase housing affordability.

Jenny Durkan Sworn in as Mayor of Seattle

The city’s first female mayor in over a century began her first shift on a citywide tour.

Police Found Gold Bars and Guns During Massive Marijuana Grow-Op Bust

They searched 10 King County locations during the investigation late last month. Sixty have been arrested so far.

Allan Phillips, the former co-owner of Carleton Avenue Grocery, stands outside of the Georgetown establishment on Wednesday. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
After the City’s Oldest Grocery Store Closes, Customers Look Elsewhere for Food and Community

Georgetown’s Carleton Avenue Grocery closed on October 31, leaving the neighborhood with a deeper dearth of food options.

Photo by Visitor7/Wikimedia
Counties Fed Up With Unfunded Mandates May Sue the State

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

A Beloved Eatery Closes, Whole Foods Is Ordered to Open, and a Mother Boycotts an Inquest.

Plus, the latest on the Black Diamond City Council recall attempt.

Homelessness Prevention Program Keeps 3,000 Housed

The initiative, which is funded by the Best Starts for Kids levy, is helping stabilize families at risk of homelessness.

State Representative Paul Graves Wants to Make the Legislature’s Records Public

The Fall City legislator aims to make all legislators subject to public records requests in 2018

Most Read