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Spokane's outed mayor defends antigay voting record

Spokane's outed mayor defends antigay voting record

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The Washington mayor claimed that, as a state legislator, he was voting to appease the constituents of his conservative district.

Spokane, Wash., mayor James E. West told a national audience on Tuesday that he voted against gay-friendly measures when he was a state legislator because that was what his conservative district wanted, even though he was gay and in the closet. Interviewed on NBC's Today show, West called child molestation allegations against him "absolutely wrong" and predicted he would survive investigations into allegations that he misused his office for personal gain. West, who was in New York on his way to attend a conference Wednesday and Thursday in Tampa, Fla., told Today show host Matt Lauer that Spokane residents are urging him to remain in office even as business organizations and politicians are telling him it's time to go. "The e-mails that are coming to me are in my favor not to resign--'Stand your ground,'" West said. "They say, 'If the allegations are true, you ought to go.' Well, they are not true."The mayor is the subject of an FBI inquiry into whether he committed criminal acts by trolling gay chat rooms and offering city jobs to men he met there. The city has appointed a commission to determine whether he violated policies against misuse of computers. West has repeatedly denied allegations, raised in a series of articles beginning May 5 in The Spokesman-Review, that he sexually molested two teenage boys when he was a sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Spokane city council scheduled a vote Tuesday night on a resolution asking West to resign. The vote is advisory, and West can be removed from office only by recall. A group of residents have begun circulating a recall petition. West, a former GOP majority leader in the Washington State senate, said he wasn't being hypocritical when he opposed gay-friendly bills. "I voted to represent my legislative district in the legislature. I was not an advocate," West said. "I was not a leader of the charge in any of those cases. Every representative and every senator from my district voted the way I voted." West, who characterized himself as "bisexual, gay" who had intimate relationships with both men and women after his divorce about nine years ago, said he doubts he would have voted differently had he not been closeted. "I am a conservative. I am not a closet liberal pretending to be a conservative," West said. "What is wrong with somebody having an alternative sexual orientation being a conservative? Can a...gay or black be conservative? I think they can." West said he will be exonerated by the FBI and city investigations. "I haven't misused my office for personal gain," he said. "I welcome those investigations because I believe they will clear me." He told Lauer he expects more allegations to surface as political enemies "pile on." (AP)

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