Rumors turned into reality Tuesday morning when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that, in light of the allegations of sexual abuse that were leveled against him last month, he will not be seeking re-election.
Now that the question of the mayor’s electoral fate has been answered, another emerges: What happens to the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has already raised in campaign contributions? As we’ve previously reported, Murray’s campaign war chest is huge in comparison to the remaining candidates. That $200,000 has to go somewhere.
Where depends on when Murray disposes of the money. The key date is August 1, which is when the primary election will take place. There are only two things that Murray can do with the money before the end of the primary: spend it on campaigning or return it to donors. This rule applies even though Murray will not be filing a Declaration of Candidacy with King County to get onto the August ballot, since he is already registered with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. Returning the donations could change the complexion of the race dramatically, since those who have supported the mayor financially would then have more resources to back another candidate.
If Murray decides to keep his war chest closed until after the primary, the money will officially become “surplus funds”—as it does for all candidates when they exit their race—and the mayor’s menu of options for how to dispose of the funds would become much bigger. In addition to paying debts and reimbursing contributors, candidates can donate surplus funds to:
- A state-registered charity
- The state’s general fund
- A political party
- A caucus in the state legislature
- Themselves, in the form of reimbursed lost wages
One thing a candidate with surplus funds cannot do is contribute them to another candidate. This means that Murray cannot bequeath his war chest to a chosen heir.
A candidate may contribute surplus funds to a political party, which may then contribute the funds to another candidate—though the original contribution to the party cannot be earmarked for that purpose. Also, like any other political donor in Seattle, the party would only be able to contribute up to $500 to another candidate. The Washington State Democrats, for example, contributed that amount to Murray’s campaign in March.
There is also little chance that Murray will attempt to pocket the cash as wage reimbursement, since he has continued his work as mayor throughout the campaign and, as he stated during his Tuesday press conference, will continue until his term ends on December 31.
We asked mayoral spokesperson Jeff Reading what Murray plans to do with his money prior to his announcement. “We’re not commenting on speculation or rumors,” Reading replied.
This post has been edited.