Seattle mayoral candidate stops TV ad decried as racist
In this Oct. 14, 2021, file photo, Bruce Harrell, left, and Lorena Gonzalez take part in a Seattle mayoral debate. Gonzalez said Monday, Oct. 25, she was pulling a television ad attacking Harrell following criticism that the spot highlighting sexual assault issues was racist. The ad tried to remind voters of Harrell's statements during a sexual abuse scandal involving former Mayor Ed Murray in 2017. The ad's use of a white rape survivor triggered blowback from Black leaders. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool, File)
SEATTLE (AP) — A candidate for Seattle mayor is pulling a television ad attacking her opponent following criticism that the spot highlighting sexual assault issues was racist.
The ad from Lorena González tried to remind voters of Bruce Harrell’s statements during a sexual abuse scandal involving former Mayor Ed Murray in 2017. At the time Harrell expressed doubts about the allegations and did not join González in calling for Murray to consider resigning.
Murray ultimately left office that year after several men accused him of sexually abusing them decades earlier. He denied the allegations.
But The Seattle Times reports the ad’s use of a white rape survivor — not a Murray accuser — who said she could not trust Harrell triggered blowback from Harrell supporters and Black political and civic leaders who said it was racist. Harrell is Black and Asian American.
In a video statement Monday, González, the City Council president, said she believes Harrell, a former council president, has a “troubling” record of responding to sexual abuse and harassment allegations, including during the Murray scandal.
But she acknowledged her campaign ad’s use of a white rape survivor was problematic when juxtaposed with Harrell.
“I am sorry we did not work harder to center the voice of a sexual assault survivor from our community of color who was also willing to tell their story,” González said.
Harrell, in a statement, thanked those who had spoken out against the ad.
“The intense community outpouring this false and racist commercial sparked speaks to the pain it brought not just to the Black community, but to our entire city,” he said.
The González campaign had initially defended the ad following outcry from Harrell and Black community leaders.
Harrell and González are competing to succeed Mayor Jenny Durkan in the Nov. 2 election. Durkan is not running for a second term.
González has won the endorsements of many of the region’s labor unions. Her parents were migrant farmworkers in central Washington.
As council president, she has helped pass a payroll tax on big corporations, such as Amazon, to pay for city services, as well as worker protections such as a secure-scheduling law.
Harrell has called for hiring more police officers to stem a rise in shootings and for reforming the state's regressive tax code. He grew up in Seattle’s Central Area, a redlined neighborhood, and has the support of most of the city’s business community.