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SGN EXCLUSIVE - Ed Murray talks with SGN about his race for state Senate
SGN EXCLUSIVE - Ed Murray talks with SGN about his race for state Senate
I believe that if any one of the four of us Gay legislators had been in the Senate these last four years or if Cal had lived, the Civil Rights Bill would have been passed years ago," said State Rep. Ed Murray.

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

State Rep. Ed Murray announced on Saturday, April 1, that he will be seeking the 43rd District Senate seat, which includes Capitol Hill, the University District, Wallingford and Freemont.

"I am announcing my candidacy today for the state Senate," he said. "Michael and I will need your help and your friendship over the next few months. ... With your help, we can win this election...not only for yourself, but for future generations."

Murray is looking to unseat Senator Pat Thibaudeau, who is seeking a fourth Senate term. While he never mentioned Thibaudeau by name, he thanked the incumbent for her hard work in the Senate.

"I am not running to oppose any candidate," he said. "This election is about the urgency of now. ... These are not ordinary times."

A poll by Don McDonough of Evans McDonough shows Murray with a 20 percent lead over Thibaudeau. McDonough, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' primary pollster, found that Murray had 70 percent name recognition - the highest of any of the 43rd District legislators. Murray's campaign had commissioned the poll. Murray laid out his campaign themes on Saturday: immigration, healthcare, marriage equality and the quality of life in the 43rd District.

The Seattle Gay News sat down with Murray on Wednesday to discuss his Senate race.



SGN: You ran against Thibaudeau in 1995, but it was a very short election. For those our readers who don't remember, can you explain what happened?

EM: Cal had been in office in the Senate for eight months before he passed away in August from AIDS. So, there was just a four week election. It was a good election. I felt good about our campaign, but I lost. One never feels good about that. Pat won and, then, several weeks later I was appointed to her House seat in November of '95. I won that seat in my own right in '96.

SGN: Since that time, you have done a lot for the community, including the passage of the Safe Schools Bill, the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill and domestic partnerships for state employees. What are some of your highlights?

EM: I think they fall into one of two categories. I think it helps all of us as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people to see people like us to succeed professionally, whether that is reporters, doctors, lawyers or high tech people in the software industry. I think the same goes for politicians. It is important for our community to see another Gay politician be effective.

Eight years ago I was co-chair of Capitol Budget, which was during a 49-49 tie. I was able to double the amount we put into the trust fund for low income housing. We put the first money into farm worker housing - $8 million every two years. For me that is a Gay and Lesbian issue, as well as an issue for the whole state.

Last year, not only did we pass the largest transportation package in the state history and the largest tax increase - probably - in state history as well. I also was the prime sponsor of the Clean Air Bill, so that Washington could have same emission standards as California. One of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in years. We were able to put more money into transit for the first time since Tim Eyman destroyed our transportation budget with Initiative-695.

Then, there was the Safe Schools Bill to protect Gay and Lesbian students. ... There was funding for domestic partnerships for state employees. Of course, finally - after 11 years of having worked on it as a legislator - we passed the Civil Rights Bill. Now, I didn't do any of those things by myself. I wouldn't ever take full credit for them. One of the reasons that I was effective is because I was able to bring people together in the community, business and labor to support the legislation. It took Republicans as well as Democrats to vote for it. That's where I was successful, but it took a lot of other people to get that passed - Joe, Jim and Dave as well as ERW and everybody else who has ever worked on it.

SGN: Can you think of a time when the Senate has been a stumbling block for our community?

EM: I think you have to remember that in '93 and '94 that the Democrats controlled the House and Senate when Cal was in the Legislature. The Senate killed the Civil Rights Bill. Last year, the bill - the Civil Rights Bill - died in a Democratic controlled Senate. This year it passed out of the Democratic controlled Senate by getting a Republican vote. So, on this issue - the answer is yes. And - I would argue - on a number of issues, including education and the environment in particular, the Senate has been a stumbling block to the values of the 43rd District. I think I have proven - whether it is in a 49-49 tie with Republicans or in the majority and to some extend, even in the minority, I can still get some things accomplished.

SGN: You said on Saturday that you are not running against any other candidate. What do you want people to know about that?

EM: As I said, I respect Pat's service to the state. Personally, we have always been on very good terms with each another. Whether it is the issue of marriage or the potential destruction of our neighborhoods by the construction on the 520 Bridge - as well as a number of other issues - I believe that I am the more effective legislator. I would like to be one of the people that start to break down some of the road blocks to progressive issues in the Senate. That's my reasoning. That's politics. It's not personal.

Pat and I have supported each other in some campaigns. Pat and I have has supported other candidates in other campaigns. It happens all the time, particularly in a city dominated by the same party. Political friends run against each other for mayor, county exec. and governor. This is one of those situations.

One of the most liberal Democratic Presidents of all time who did more for civil rights and more for the poor was Lyndon Johnson. But Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy so profoundly disagreed with him on some of the issues that they ran against him. Pat is far better than Lyndon Johnson, but - while she is very liberal - I think the issue of marriage is going to be so huge regardless of what the court decides. For that reason alone, I feel that a Gay person needs to be the Senate. I believe that if any one of the four of us Gay legislators had been in the Senate these last four years or if Cal had lived, the Civil Rights Bill would have been passed years ago.

SGN: You had talked a little about your heritage during your announcement and that you would be a champion for immigrants. Why is that an important theme for your campaign?

EM: Well, I guess it is obvious that the far right has chosen another target and a target even more defenseless than we are as Gay and Lesbian citizens. They are going to run initiatives and anti-immigrant legislation in this state. We know that is coming. We need strong, aggressive, leadership to fight these attacks on these new Americans back.

Michael and I are both the grandchildren of immigrants. Michael's grandparents are from Japan, mine are from Ireland. Both of us have been raised with stories about how horrendously our grandparents were treated for different reasons and at different places. Obviously, Michael's grandparents because they were people of color, mine - to a great extent - because they were Catholic at a time when this country was fairly rabidly anti-Catholic.

The story of discrimination toward immigrants is one that we were raised with. Nobody has benefited from immigrating to this America as Irish-Americans and I feel an incredible obligation not to turn around and shut the door, but to hold that door open.

We are reading about it nationally, but it is going to come here and it's going to dominate this state. This state has had a huge influx of new Americans - of immigrants - in the last decade. The city has.

SGN: Another thing you said on Saturday was that this is a campaign about the "politics of now." What is so vital about the current climate we live in?

EM: Either we do something about our environment or lose our environment. Either we do something about preserving and expanding our own natural environment in this state or we lose it forever. Either we do something about contributing to solving global warming or we lose this planet. That isn't something for the future that is something that had to be decided over the next few years.

I should back up by saying that I believe that the Democrats are going to increase their majority in both houses. It is going to be a rare opportunity to do some of these things, like the environment. I think the issue of marriage, marriage equality for Gay and Lesbian people, is going to be addressed - for better or worse -in the next few years. It is happening now. It is no longer something out there in the future.

On education, we cannot continue to compete globally unless we do something about our education system. We have under funded our K-12 system and we haven't provided enough slots for our higher education system. So our home-grown industries, like Microsoft and Boeing, go to other countries to find employees when we have Washingtonians who should be training and be educated for those jobs. This is something that is going to be decided in the next few years.

If I were to do a little contrasting between Pat and myself. I have been a leader in protecting our neighborhoods from an expanded 520. Over the next few years, the decision will be made whether to destroy those neighborhoods or improve those neighborhoods. I would have to say that there has been no leadership in the Senate on protecting those neighborhoods. The other thing that I think I offer that is different is that I have in recent years - in conjunction with other groups or with other individuals - I have literally raised, over the last several election cycles, nearly $200,000 for other Democrats besides myself. I think that I bring that kind of party building strength that we need to keep Democrats in control and to expand our majorities.

SGN: You mentioned that former Gov. Booth Gardner will be chairing your campaign and that King County Executive Ron Sims had endorsed your campaign. How does it feel to have such political giants backing your campaign?

EM: It is an honor. Obviously, Gov. Gardner has been a leader on so many issues. Right now, he has become a leader for people who are fighting Parkinson's, like he is. He has become a leader on the right to die. He will be heading up the effort to do an initiative. To have someone like that is really important to me. To have someone who is so clearly so aware of other people's suffering or who are being challenged by disease or disability is an honor. Ron Sims is a giant in the African-American community and on a number of issues in King County. But, you know, I have been lucky. On my first campaign in 1995, my chair of my campaign was Hazel Wolf, an environmentalist, who was almost 100 years at the time that she decided that she would be the chair of my '95 campaign.

SGN: Do you feel that this is going be a difficult time to run your Senate campaign, considering that we may have to fight back Tim Eyman's referendum?

EM: I think my campaign will help motivate people; help energize people; and help organize people towards those efforts as well. This campaign will also be decided in the September primary and the initiative of course will be on the November ballot.

SGN: Have you talked to any of the other Gay legislators? Have they given you their support?

EM: Despite what everybody thought, I didn't actually make up my mind until Michael and I went a way for a weekend. I only made up my mind - definitively - a week ago. So, we have only begun to make those calls. ... We were just gone for a week here in the country.

SGN: This is a big decision for you and your partner. I can only imagine the kind of conversations the two of you had to have had. Was he supportive from the beginning?

EM: It is interesting. I will be open about this. I actually went back and forth a lot. I think of some of those House candidates knew how much back and forth, they would have been nervous. Michael was pretty clear from the beginning that it was the right thing to do and I aught to do it now. In some sense, he has kept me focused on why I wanted to do it. He's ready. He has been through this before. We took a long walk with the dog for about an hour through Volunteer Park to talk about it one more time before I made up my mind. He's used to the exposure. He's very supportive.

SGN: Now, I want to pick your brain about our community's efforts to retain the Civil Rights Bill. Do we lose political capital if a ballot challenge were to overturn the new law?

EM: A lot depends on the campaign and how the campaign is conducted and how it is perceived in Olympia. So, it is really hard to say. It certainly would take a lot of work to get back to where we were when the bill passed.

SGN: Do you plan to work with the Washington Won't Discriminate campaign or campaign together?

EM: I think that's a decision that they will have to make. But, I certainly plan to talk about that issue when I door bell. If there are two campaigns among political friends, the campaign may not want to associate with one or the other. They have to think about who they win. Once we are through the primary, one of the things I plan to do is to keep my structure in place, not only to elect Democrats to the Legislature, but to defeat Tim Eyman.

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