Seattle mayoral candidate called racist after new ad causes backlash

Lorena Gonzalez posted an ad that many community members say perpetuates racist stereotypes and falsely accused her Black male opponent of being a rape apologist

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Over three dozen Black leaders in Seattle, Washington are calling for mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez to pull a “morally disgusting” ad that portrays her opponent and frontrunner Bruce Harrell as a rape apologist.

The commercial, which was posted on Gonzalez’s Twitter on Friday, features a sexual assault survivor who said that she was “horrified” to hear that Harrell defended Ed Murray, the former mayor for the state who resigned in 2017 after five victims came forth with child sex abuse allegations.

She then said the candidate, who is half Black and half Japanese, has repeatedly sided with abusers and that “as a survivor, I could never vote for him.”

This issue is that some of the claims are reportedly fabricated, and other quotes attributed to Harrell were allegedly used out of context.

“Dangerous racist tropes involving the insinuation of Black men as insensitive to issues of sexual violence remain pervasive in our society,” reads a letter posted on Saturday, signed by several community members like former police chiefs, state representatives and members of the NAACP. The group that signed the letter called the ad a baseless smear campaign

“For you to perpetuate these race-baiting stereotypes in your campaign is a new low in our civic discourse, and an attempt to erase the decades of advocacy and accomplishments of Bruce Harrell, who has been an unflinching voice for victims of violence and discrimination throughout his career in law and politics.”

They are calling for Gonzalez, who is the City Council president, to pull the commercial from all platforms.

The two mayoral candidates have had a long history as representatives for the state. Harrell was elected to the Seattle City council in 2007 and served as the President from 2016-2020. Gonzalez was the first Latina elected to council in 2015 and currently serves as the council’s President, succeeding Harrell.

The duo’s paths have also crossed when Murray was mayor of Seattle.

Lorena González and Bruce Harrell. - theGrio.com
(Seattle mayoral candidates Lorena González and Bruce Harrell. PhotoCred: Associated Press)

When victims first came forward with sexual assault allegations against Murray in 2017, Gonzalez was the first member of the council to publicly call for him to step down as mayor. 

Harrell, like the majority of the members on the council, advocated for due process in the investigation into Murray and not an immediate step down.

Although Murray was never criminally charged, he resigned as mayor after five victims, including several teenage boys, a foster son and his cousin, accused him of raping and molesting them sometime during their childhood.

In the video, a woman says that Harrell said “people shouldn’t be judged by what they may have done in the past,” in regards to the accusations against Murray.

But, that quote from was actually in response to Gonzalez in 2017, when she called on other members of the board to boot Murray out of office.

“The mayor is entitled to a hearing, due process and an attorney,” said Harrell in a video clip at the time. “Do not ask us to judge anyone for something that happened 33 years ago or maybe didn’t happen… I don’t want to be judged for anything 33 years ago.”

“This ad is morally disgusting and traffics in anti-Black dog whistles that harm our community,” said Paula Sardinas, a former member of the State African American Affairs Commission and advocate for victims of assault.

The attorney who represented one of Murray’s victims in the lawsuit which broke the scandal, also called out Gonzalez for her dishonest and inflammatory portrayal.

A member of a non-profit board publicly disproved Gonzalez’s other accusation, that Harrell advised the board on how to discredit the reputations of people accusing a senior staff member of sexual harassment.

Gonzalez trails Harrell 32% to 48% according to an October 15 election poll. The elections will be held on Nov. 2nd.

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