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Mayor says he’ll reject donations from police union

Credit: Matt Mills McKnight

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray pledged Tuesday evening to refuse all donations or political endorsements from the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the union representing rank-and-file members of the Seattle Police Department, for his 2017 re-election campaign.

“As we complete collective bargaining negotiations, I will not seek or accept an endorsement or political contributions from the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild,” he said in an email to Crosscut.

He did not, however, say if that included the leadership union, the Seattle Police Management Association, which is also well overdue for a contract renewal.

On the surface, his announcement is surprising. In something of a coup against then-Mayor Mike McGinn, Murray received SPOG’s endorsement during his successful 2013 campaign to unseat the incumbent.

And while Murray did not receive any direct campaign contributions from SPOG members, an independent expenditure-committee created to support Murray received $15,000 from the union. Murray did not say if his pledge to refuse SPOG donations extended to independent expenditures.

But behind the scenes, the pledge is not a shocker. The City of Seattle and SPOG continue to secretly negotiate a contract renewal. The parties came to a tentative agreement late last spring, but it was overwhelmingly rejected. Reasons for why vary between dissatisfaction with former SPOG President Ron Smith, a leak of the contract to the Stranger and demands for more money. But regardless, its rejection raised the stakes for federal reform and created tension between the mayor’s office and SPOG.

Current SPOG President Kevin Stuckey said Murray told him months ago he would not seek the union’s endorsement. In an interview Wednesday, he described heated exchanges in the mayor’s office after the contract rejection, although he said he’d promised the mayor to not levy personal attacks in the media. “He told me, ‘Since we don’t have an agreement, I won’t seek your endorsement,’” said Stuckey.

“He doesn’t want our endorsement? Okay. I think it’s silly because he’s trying to make it that we’re different from everybody else. We’re not. You don’t think I’m concerned about reform? I have eyes.”

Murray came to office in large part on the promise to finish out the federally mandated reforms to the Seattle Police Department. But that effort has moved more slowly than many had hoped. While documented progress has been steady and the monitor overseeing the reforms floated late 2017 as a potential end date, the unfinished contract negotiations and the incoming Trump administration threaten to drag the process out even longer.

Meanwhile, Murray has become the target of local Black Lives Matter protestors, who hammered him on a proposed new North Precinct police station and a pledge to add 200 new police officers. The past support SPOG has shown the mayor has been a major rallying point for the protestors, as they contend he’s doing the union’s political will.

No viable candidate has declared against Murray for next fall’s election, nor are there even many serious rumblings. But the mayor has repeatedly made offhand comments about Seattle’s penchant for unseating incumbent mayors, suggesting his political fate is on his mind.

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