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Infamous 'online chat' mayor dies

The former mayor of Spokane, James West, died today of complications from cancer surgery. (365gay):

The conservative former Republican state senate majority leader was diagnosed in early 2003 with colon cancer that later spread to his liver. A statement issued by University of Washington Medical Center said his family and pastor were at his side at the Seattle hospital.

Seven months after The Spokesman-Review newspaper began publishing results of a computer “sting” it conducted to track the mayor’s online activities in a gay chat room, West was ousted from office on Dec. 6, 2005, on a single charge that he used his office for personal benefit.

West was the first Spokane city official to be recalled from office, ending a 27-year career in city and state politics. The former Spokane city councilman, Boy Scout leader and sheriff’s deputy had frequently opposed gay-rights bills during his 20 years in the state House and Senate.

The newspaper alleged he offered to help someone he thought was an 18-year-old high school student get a City Hall internship during Internet chats that involved discussions about sex.

“I wish I had never gone online at all. I just wish I hadn’t,” West told The Associated Press in an Oct. 31, 2005, interview. “I scratch my head today. I can’t tell you why.”

He generated a LOT of press and blog postings over that scandal. You can read some of those here.

UPDATE: Shakes Sis had more to say than I did on Wild Wild West. Check it out. A snippet.

West was a divisive and infuriating figure—requiring the LGBT community and its supporters to mobilize in search of protection against his anti-gay agenda—but pathetic, too. There was, in the end, no one who could save him from himself. West died still trapped in a stranglehold of repression and self-loathing, never having given himself the chance to find real happiness, choosing instead to work toward denying of others that which he denied himself—as if perpetuating inequality would somehow, sometime, legislate homosexuality right out of existence, and take with it that part of himself he hated.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding