Former Spokane Mayor James West is Dead

James E. West, the ousted Mayor of Spokane, who hypocritically supported anti-gay legislation while frequenting gay chat rooms and allegedly offering city jobs to young men he met there, has died of cancer in Seattle at age 55.

Ph2005051101439West’s internet activities were tracked by The Spokesman Review, which published its results in a scandalous exposé in spring 2005. West adamantly denied he had done anything wrong and refused to resign his office after the scandal broke. He was later forced from office by a recall petition circulated among citizens who were angry at the politician’s use of his office for personal benefit.

A figure in Washington politics for 20 years, West had the opportunity several times to advance gay rights causes: As Mayor of Spokane, West opposed domestic partner benefits for City Hall workers in 2003 yet the City Council voted for the measure with enough of a majority to withstand a mayoral veto. As Senate majority leader, he held up a gay rights bill in committee, where it died. West voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and opposed gay rights bills in ’85 and ’87.

Yet when West’s activities with young gay men were exposed, the Mayor claimed that his sexuality and private activities on the Internet were off-limits, and he denied using city computers inappropriately while condemning the “brutal outing” that had soiled his name.

Later, in an email to one of his constituents, he said that God had forgiven him, and that was all he needed.

James West was recalled from office in December 2005.

Just Doesn’t Get It [tr]
James West Denies Allegations, Refuses to Resign [tr]
James West Regrets Visiting Gay Chat Rooms [tr]
The Hypocrite Speaks [tr]
Spokane Mayor James West Finally Ousted from Office [tr]


  1. dave says

    Andy, you seem like a genuinely compassionate guy so I’m sure you wouldn’t be so smug about Jim West’s death if you really thought about it.

    Read the transcripts of how the Spokesman-Review entrapped this guy. They’re really shocking behavior on the part of the newspaper and they lay bare in the most pathetic way the torment he went through, one that I expect most gay men can identify with or at least understand in some way.

    His votes in the 80s were horrible, but he hadn’t been a vehement Christian conservative since then, he was just kind of an average Republican and clearly struggling inside. His “activities” with young men were totally unproven. He offered an unpaid internship to this imaginary “young man” he was flirting with on the internet. I really don’t think that was a serious crime against the public interest.

    There’s a film being made about this story that I think will change more than a few minds about what happened to Jim West.

  2. Linear says

    While what commenter Dave says may well be true and some sympathy is warranted for a person in Jim West’s shoes – I have a hard time reconciling what may have been his personal torment with his public actions. To be homosexual/trans/whatever and yet actively campaign/work for the detriment of other GLBTQ folks…it’s the most evil of evil.

    My human capacity for forgiveness is not always as strong as my push to survive.

  3. patrick nyc says

    From your post Dave I would take it that you either know inside information or you were fucking West yourself. He was a public servent who misuesed his office. When it comes to sex, most ‘activities” are not known. The fact he was a republican is offensive enough. Film or no film, you should pick better causes.

  4. Tread says

    Meh. One less gay Republican fucktard in the world.

    Now if only we could get rid of the idiots who turned HRC into a fancy dinner planner and sticker maker.

  5. Zeke says

    The claim, or insinuation that James West had turned from his anti-gay, right-wing Christian ways some time in the 80’s is patently false and insulting to anyone who has the least bit of knowledge of this man’s voting record through the various public offices that he held. I certainly don’t revel in this man’s demise and I feel bad for his family and friends, but it is just outrageous to spend time and energy trying to revise history to make this man look like some sort of helpless victim who deserves our pity. Many men are, or have been, conflicted about their sexuality. Many men understand the shame and hopelessness that comes from being in the closet. However, to insinuate that we all know what it’s like to use turn our non-self acceptance and shame outward to be a supporter, even a sponsor, of anti-gay legislation is absurd. Nor do most of us relate to closeted gay men who are gay bashers.

    Forgive me if I don’t excuse the bigoted and hurtful actions of anti-gay closeted jerks, especially when those actions directly affect thousands of my brothers and sisters.

    There is a BIG difference between forgiving and excusing.

  6. Paul says

    In his political life, West was a *******, no argument there. In his personal life, it’s understandable to accept that he was conflicted, self-hating, etc. And yes, the newspaper definitely did some things that were ethically questionable. But the underlying fact remains that West abused his power for his own aggrandizement, putting him in the same category as Ken Lay and Dick Cheney. What upset me the most, though, was the “person on the street” attitude during the recall campaign. There was not so much talk about power abuse and an awful lot of talk about his sexual orientation. ‘We don’t want his kind [meaning a gay person] in office, though expressed in many different and subtle variants, was the dominating attitude. Remember, this is the same area of the country that tossed Foley, putting Newt in power.

  7. stevo says

    Who would want to see a movie based on Jim West?

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that pitch meeting….”Closeted homo hypocrite bigot gets caught with his pants down, becomes a public disgrace, gets cancer and dies.” How depresessing!

    I’m sure the studios are scrambling for the rights to that story.

  8. FunMe says

    Zeke love your post – very well said!

    The Spokesman Review actually deserves an award for stopping West from inflicting more harm to gays/lesbians.

  9. Zeke says


    I agree with you. It’s sad that many people supported West’s recall because they found his sexuality to be repugnant rather than because of his abuse of power. However, let’s not forget that this is the very SAME kind of anti-gay attitude that West himself promoted from the soapbox of his various public offices and with the megaphone of his celebrity and public access. He spoke loudly and often about the immorality and threat of “homosexuals”. Then he seemed absolutely shocked when the same rhetoric, from his political buddies, was turned and used against him.

    I can’t help but find it ironic, and to a great degree satisfying, when I see a person hung by the rope of bigotry that he braided with his own hands.

    This doesn’t apply only to closeted, anti-gay queers but also to straight hypocrites as well. I find it extremely karmic that Gingrich and Livingston braided the righteousness ropes that were later used to kill their careers.

    Forgive me if I fail to shed a tear.

  10. Zeke says

    Before anyone misrepresents my “fail to shed a tear” statement, let me once again make it clear; my sense of satisfaction with karmic justice is a reaction specifically to his POLITICAL demise, not his death. I take absolutely no joy in anyone’s death no matter how much I may dislike them, their actions or their politics.

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