A group of two-dozen Seattle civil rights and minority community leaders appeared today at a Central Area senior center to plug Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s reelection campaign.
The pastors, activists and politicians praised McGinn for directing more money to minority contractors, preserving human services programs during hard times and generally being responsive to their concerns.
“He’s been there for us, and we are going to be there for him,” said Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Gossett.
Chinatown International District activist Bob Santos, who has worked with mayors going back many decades, called McGinn “probably more responsive than any other mayor” besides Norm Rice.
But the press conference also turned to an attack on McGinn’s challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray. Essentially, some McGinn backers played the race card.
Reaching back 15 years, former Seattle state Rep. Velma Veloria claimed Murray had privately criticized a bill sponsored by the late Rep. Kip Tokuda that would have tried to preserve affirmative action programs in Washington state from Initiative 200.
Legislative records show Murray signed on as a sponsor of Tokuda’s bill, which would have preserved affirmative action programs but barred quotas and the hiring of unqualified persons. But Veloria claimed he dissed the measure in a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting.
“I don’t have the exact words right now but the shock that I felt had a lot to do with the fact that he only felt that he could fight for civil rights for gays and lesbians and did not want to include people of color,” Veloria said.
Others at the event, including McGinn, claimed Tokuda told them of his anger at the long ago comments before his death this year of a heart attack.
Murray flatly denied the accusations, pointing to his sponsorship of Tokuda’s bill and other actions he’d taken opposing I-200, which was nevertheless approved by voters later that year. “It’s not true,” he said.
Murray said he did help convene talks between Rep. Hans Dunshee and other Democrats about another alternative to I-200 under discussion at the time. Dunshee’s measure was loudly opposed by Tokuda and other liberals in the House Democratic caucus at the time, and Murray did not sign on as a cosponsor. A 1998 story in The Seattle Times recounts that feud, including Murray’s criticisms of some colleagues he said did not even want to have a discussion about it.
Another former state legislator, Dawn Mason, called Veloria’s story baloney. “Had he said it it would have been an issue to me also. And that issue would have been discussed with Kip. He never discussed it with me because there was nothing to discuss,” said Mason, who was Tokuda’s seatmate in the 37th Legislative District, and one of the few African-American state lawmakers at the time.
Mason called the McGinn camp raising the allegations now “divisive and distasteful.”
Former King County Executive Ron Sims commented in a Facebook post that “no one is well-served by this kind of tasteless politics.” He pointed out that Murray recently married his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki, who is Asian American.