Hate crime issue becomes important in Seattle mayoral race

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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SEATTLE - When the candidates for Seattle mayor met with gay business leaders Wednesday, they got questions about a spike in hate crimes on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to the Greater Seattle Business Association, Mayor Mike McGinn emphasized steps he's already taken to deal with the violence. 

"We've added more park rangers, we're adding more officers, we turned on the lights in Cal Anderson Park to help," McGinn said.

Seeking to become Seattle's first gay mayor, State Sen. Ed Murray would bring back the tactics he used to fight gay-bashing 20 years ago.

"We developed police training, we developed safety patrols on Capitol Hill, we held education forums and we were able to actually turn that problem around," Murray said.

Under Washington law, hate crimes are a felony called "malicious harassment." They occur when an attack is perpetrated because of the victim's race, gender of sexual orientation. The penalty is a jail term of at least three to nine months; triple the penalty of similar crimes that without any expressed bigotry.

The King County Prosecutor's Office said they file about 15 hate crime cases each year.

The candidates clashed on the broader issue of police reform. 

"There's a real morale problem when I talk to our officers," said Murray

"We have everyone pulling together for change, and we are implementing the changes and practices for change right now," McGinn said.