Three Seattle mayors in a week? Here’s what you need to know about the shake-up at City Hall

Update, Sept. 18: Another day, another Seattle mayor! But he should be our last one for a while. Well, if you consider two months “a while.” Let’s catch you up.

Who’s mayor of Seattle now?

It’s Tim Burgess. He’s a longtime city councilmember and former police officer and reporter who was planning to retire after his term on the council was up this year. Here’s what he said when he took the job Monday.

And how did he become mayor?

Not the usual way. Basically: Mayor Ed Murray resigned as mayor last week over sexual abuse allegations. And according to the city charter, when the mayor steps down, someone from the Seattle City Council has to step up. Bruce Harrell, the council president, took over immediately and had five days to decide if he wanted to keep at it. Now here’s the twist: Whoever leads the council to fill in as mayor has to give up their council seat in the process, and since Harrell still had two years left on his term, he decided to pass. That was Friday. On Monday, the council picked Tim Burgess to serve as mayor.

How long will he serve?

We’ll have a Mayor Tim Burgess until the results get certified from the Nov. 7 election. That’s 71 days.

And we won’t have any more mayors until then? You promise?

Well, you never know with this city, do you? But yeah. We shouldn’t see any more mayoral shake-ups until Seattleites fill out those ballots. We think.


Update, Sept. 17: Things have been pretty hectic at Seattle City Hall since former mayor Ed Murray announced his resignation last Tuesday over sexual abuse allegations. Here’s what you need to know. Stay tuned for more …

Who’s mayor of Seattle? I’m having trouble keeping track.

Aren’t we all. Our mayor right now is Bruce Harrell. He’s served on the Seattle City Council for 10 years, he’s our first Asian-American and mixed-race mayor, and we didn’t make him the city executive — the city’s charter did. Harrell was city council president when our now former mayor Ed Murray resigned last week. And according to city rules, the city council president steps up when a Seattle mayor steps down.

Mayor Bruce Harrell. Got it.

Well, not so fast. According to the city charter, Harrell had five days to decide whether he wanted to stay mayor until November’s election when we elect a new one. And on Friday, he said no thanks.


Harrell’s still got two years on his current city council term. If he’d filled in as mayor, he would have lost his seat. “There are issues on the council and the budget process that I think need my leadership,” he said in a Friday press conference.

So now who’s going to lead the city?

Someone else from the city council. People are betting on either Lorena M. González, who’s running for re-election and is probably going to win, or Tim Burgess, who’s retiring soon anyway. It’s on the council to decide who among them is going to step up and serve as mayor until we elect either Cary Moon or Jenny Durkan to the position in November. The city charter gives them 20 days to do it, and it might be a good bit sooner than that: Both Harrell and González — who’s filling in for him as council president — said they expect the council to choose a new temporary mayor on Monday.

Did Mayor Harrell do anything as mayor?

Actually, yeah. He passed four executive orders. The first directed the city to bid on becoming home to Amazon’s second headquarters (yep, we’re already home to its first). The second is about getting the city and county to think about alternatives to youth incarceration. The third calls for messy parts of the city to get cleaned up, and the fourth addresses the city’s IT security. Here’s more on all that from The Seattle Times’ Daniel Beekman and Crosscut’s David Kroman.

What happens next?

We’ll have to wait and see. Stay tuned for more updates, and send us your questions at [email protected].

And what are people saying about former mayor Ed Murray?

As the city recovers from the shock of last week’s news, we’re starting to take stock of Murray’s legacy and downfall. The top of this Seattle Times story published Sunday about sums it up:

Had Ed Murray’s political biography been written early this year, it might have begun this way:

A Western Washington native and self-described social-justice Catholic whose father worked in a steel mill, Murray forged his political know-how as a gay-rights activist. He sharpened it as a deal-making state lawmaker and wielded it as a temperamental but effective mayor, helping to raise Seattle’s minimum wage and its national profile.

Instead, the 62-year-old will be remembered as a once-important leader disgraced and destroyed — despite his vehement denials — by multiple allegations of child sex-abuse in a sad scandal that tested his city’s progressive values.


Below is our original post explaining what happened after Ed Murray announced his resignation at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

A fifth man came forward Tuesday to say that Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused him when he was a teenager years ago. The Seattle Times reported his story at 11 a.m. and two hours later, Murray announced his resignation effective today at 5 p.m. It was a quick end to a long, drawn-out, five-month back and forth between the mayor and four other men who had also accused him of sexual abuse.

How did all this get started? How are people reacting? And who exactly is in charge of our city now? We rounded up all the best reporting done by our city’s awesome local journalists to answer those questions. So here we go.

You said this is the fifth man who accused Murray of sexual abuse. Who are the others?

They are Delvonn Heckard, Jeff Simpson, Lloyd Anderson, and Maurice Lavon Jones. The fifth, Murray’s younger cousin, is Joseph Dyer. The Seattle Times has more on them here.

And this has been going on for five months?

Yes. On April 6, The Seattle Times published a story about Delvonn Heckard, a man from Kent who was suing Mayor Ed Murray for abusing him when he was a teenager. Prior to this, two other men had told The Seattle Times Murray had molested them. Then a fourth man came forward on May 2, and a few days later, amid mounting pressure, Murray announced he wouldn’t run for re-election. (He said it tore him “to pieces to step away” but he believed it was in “the best interest of this city.”) Then in June, Delvonn, who filed the suit against Murray, dropped his case and said he would refile early next year.

Why? Because, among other reasons, Delvonn was worried Murray would benefit from defending the lawsuit while acting as mayor. Murray took that as a victory and said, “I believe the withdrawal of this lawsuit vindicates me.” Some even thought he might still run for re-election as a write-in candidate (he didn’t).

That brings us to Tuesday’s news. A fifth man – Murray’s younger cousin – alleged that Murray repeatedly molested him when he was a teenager years ago. Hours later, Murray announced his resignation. His tenure as mayor will officially end at 5 p.m. today.

What’s Murray saying about all this?

That he didn’t do it. Murray continues to deny all the allegations made against him. In a video clip from a soon-to-be aired story by Q13 News, reporter Brandi Kruse asked Murray if he’s concerned about his legacy being threatened by these allegations. He says, “Hopefully people will realize that one side of the story, the ancient myth that gay men prey on children, has not fully been vetted by most of the media. And when that’s done, I think my, hopefully, my legacy will be in a better place.” Brandi later tweeted that she was told Murray “plans to ghost,” meaning he won’t make any public appearances or statements before leaving office.

Why did it take so many people to convince Murray to resign?

To be clear, these are all still allegations at this point. But many have been calling for Murray’s resignation for a while now, including mayoral candidate Cary Moon and Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and M. Lorena González. So why did it take so long? Here’s what City Councilmember Tim Burgess told Publicola: “Now we have a family member who’s stepping up… it just made it unbearable.”

So who leads the city now?

Beginning today at 5 p.m., City Council President Bruce Harrell will become mayor of Seattle. Then, within five days, he has to decide whether he wants to fill out the remainder of Murray’s term. If he doesn’t, the City Council will choose another one of its members to be acting mayor.

And when do we find out whether Harrell will take the job?

By 5 p.m. next Monday, September 18, according to his statement. But here’s a plot twist:

Whichever council member takes over as mayor will not be allowed to return to his or her job after the new mayor takes office, reported The Stranger’s Heidi Groover. So some are speculating that Councilmember Tim Burgess will take over the role since he’s retiring this year anyway. Here are more details on what happens next from Crosscut and The Seattle Times.

Whoever chooses to act as interim mayor won’t do it for long (although he or she will be responsible for proposing the next city budget). As soon as November election results are certified for Durkan or Moon on Nov. 28, one of them will become our new mayor (rather than waiting until a typical January inauguration). That’s according to a section of the city charter tweeted by Crosscut’s David Kroman: “A person who thus succeeds to fill a vacancy in al elected office shall hold such office until a successor is elected and qualified.”

Wait, so what do the mayoral candidates think of all this?

Candidate Cary Moon, who called on Murray to resign four months ago, called for his resignation again Tuesday when the story of the fifth accuser first broke. Candidate Jenny Durkan, who received Murray’s endorsement, didn’t call for his resignation until just before he resigned on Tuesday. Durkan also deleted his endorsement from her campaign site on Tuesday.

Murray’s resignation was, not surprisingly, the first thing that came up in a mayoral debate between Cary and Jenny Tuesday night. “I’m sorry it took so long,” Cary said. Jenny said she was “glad we can put those issues behind us.”

And what about the mayor’s accusers?

Joseph Dyer, Murray’s cousin and the fifth man to come forward alleging abuse, told The Stranger he’s glad Murray’s out. “I don’t understand how he could have gotten into office to begin with,” he said. Jeff Simpson, the first man to accuse Murray of sexual abuse, sounded relieved. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, you know what? God is good,” he told Lewis Kamb of The Seattle Times.