Seattle Mayor Ed Murray speaks during a rally at the beginning of the March For Science in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 22, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder

By Tom James

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who has been accused by four men of sexually abusing them as teenagers, dropped his bid for re-election on Tuesday, saying that the scandal would be a distraction from more important issues.

In a news conference at a waterfront park near his childhood home, an emotional Murray denied the claims against him, which he has called politically motivated, according to a video posted on the mayor’s Facebook page.

Murray, a Democrat and the city’s first openly gay mayor, also suggested that the accusations were rooted in stereotypes of gay men.

“The mayor’s race must be focused on… issues, not on a scandal, which it would be focused on if I were to remain in this race,” Murray, who became mayor in 2014, said in announcing his withdrawal from the race.

As a senator in the Washington state legislature, Murray championed gay rights and legalizing same-sex marriage. During his term as mayor, Seattle sued President Donald Trump over his executive order cracking down on sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration agents.

A primary election for mayor will take place Aug. 1 and the two candidates with the most votes will face off in the Nov. 7 general election.

In April, a 46-year-old man sued Murray, claiming that the mayor paid him for sex when he was a homeless, drug-addicted teenager in the 1980s, according to the lawsuit.

The Seattle Times newspaper said that in 2008 two other men had accused Murray of abusing them when they were teenagers in the 1980s. Murray has denied those claims, which did not become public until last month.

A fourth accuser in a sworn court declaration made similar allegations against Murray, according to the Seattle Times.

Murray consistently denied the claims, calling the accusations politically motivated, but also garnered criticism for questioning the trustworthiness of the accusers, which the Seattle Times said had criminal records.

An attorney for the first accuser, Lincoln Beauregard, said on Twitter that his client saw the mayor’s withdrawal from the race as “one step towards justice.”

(Reporting by Tom James; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Shumaker)

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