Politics Ed Murray Endorses Jamie Pedersen in Seattle’s 43rd District
[First posted at 8:50 a.m., and now updated with more from my interview with Murray.]
I usually make it a point not to be awake at 7:30 a.m., but when State Rep. Ed Murray called me late last night and invited me over for an early morning interview on the first day of the fall campaign season, I knew I was probably going to hear something interesting. And indeed I did.
Murray, who is leaving his seat in the state house to run (unopposed) for the state senate, has said for some time that he wouldn’t be endorsing a candidate in the contentious six-way race for his house seat. But Murray has changed his mind in light of the recent ruling against gay marriage from the state supreme court. This morning, over oatmeal and tea, Murray told me that he’s endorsing gay rights activist and Preston-Gates lawyer Jamie Pedersen:
Given the marriage decision from the supreme court, and given, in particular, the reprehensible language used in the decision, I believe that the political ground under the gay and lesbian community has shifted significantly. It was an earthquake of a setback and the need to move forward united and strong every place we can is the reason I’m endorsing Jamie Pedersen…
The next few years are going to determine whether we are going to move forward on marriage or whether this is going to be a 30-year-long battle.
I’ve made an argument for 11 years that having a place at the table makes a difference… Jamie is smart, driven, hard-working, and while he is new to the world of politics, I think he’s smart enough and he’ll learn. And that’s an opportunity that neither the gay and lesbian community nor this district should lose.
Given Murray’s 11 years representing Seattle’s 43rd district in the state house, and given his stature within Seattle’s gay community, this announcement is sure to shake up the race. (In fact, as I said on Friday, it could well determine the winner.)
However, Murray down-played any sense that his endorsement would be decisive, telling me:
I think it’s still very much of a race for all of them. Like all politicians, I hope that my endorsement is worth something, but I have learned that in the end it’s going to be Jamie Pedersen who wins and loses this, not Ed Murray’s endorsement.
Supporters of the other candidates—Stephanie Pure,
Jim Street, Bill Sherman, Dick Kelley, and Lynne Dodson—are sure to be disappointed by Murray’s decision to take sides in the race, and Murray went to some effort during our breakfast to highlight his admiration for all of the candidates, and two in particular:
This has been very difficult because I respect all of these candidates, and two of them I have worked with in the past — Jim Street, who is one of the most competent elected officials I have ever worked with, and Bill Sherman, who is a personal friend and would be an outstanding member of the legislature…
(Expect to see those quotes on mailers and campaign literature for Street and Sherman soon.)
I think I now will have the volunteers of five campaigns upset with me, and one campaign happy. This is not the smartest move on my part. But I feel so strongly about the marriage issue that I’m willing to do something that is not overall in my best political interest.
There has been a lot of discussion within the gay community this year about whether identity politics should trump all else in choosing the state representative for a district that covers Capitol Hill and other very gay areas of Seattle. Murray knows his endorsement will be seen by some as putting identity politics and one issue (gay marriage) above all else, and he answered the charge this way:
First of all, you should not support somebody simply because he or she is gay. The person should be competent, and you should believe in his or her abilities to be effective as a legislator. Second, we have many friends and many supporters in the legislature. But I can tell you after spending 11 years behind closed doors with other legislators, nobody pushes our issues as their first priority unless they’re gay.
He also hit back at the suggestion that four openly gay members in the legislature is enough.
This thing of ‘no more gays’ is just bigotry, and when I hear it from people on the left I am just stunned. You’re talking about a whole group of people who still have very few people who represent them in public office and still lack the rights of their fellow citizens. So I find that very appalling.
As for his take on the race, Murray declined to predict a winner, but he did predict that it would be close, with a fragmented 43rd District electorate likely not giving any one candidate a majority.
Whoever wins this is going to win with probably 25-percent of the vote. They’re going to have probably three-quarters of the district who didn’t vote for them. So whoever wins this seat is going to have a lot of work to do. It’ll be a period of building bridges, not holding grudges.
On the frequently-whispered criticism that Pedersen lacks the people skills and charisma necessary to make it in the legislature, Murray said:
If Jamie’s going to succeed, he’s going to have to develop his political skills and probably a more open personal style. If he doesn’t, he’s going to get a primary challenger.
But he also took a shot at his own mercurial tendencies, saying Pedersen’s quiet demeanor can be turned into an asset.
Some people will like the fact that Jamie is more measured and less volatile than I am. So the criticisms can also be turned into a positive.
Any specific advice for Pedersen if he wins? In an answer that will be of interest mainly to gay political insiders—but will be very interesting to them—Murray said, without hesitation:
Stop listening to Evan Wolfson and start listening to past and current legislators. Being an advocate is a very different thing than being a legislator.
And finally, Murray said he knows this endorsement will be seen by some as the anointment of an heir to the legacy of Cal Anderson (the state’s first openly gay legislator), who held the 43rd District’s house seat before Murray. However, Murray doesn’t exactly see it that way. Assuming he wins his senate race, which seems all but certain since he’s running unopposed, Murray says he will still be the point-person on gay rights issues in the legislature:
I’m not anointing an heir. I plan to remain the legislative lead on GLBT issues in Olympia for some time to come.