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Gay Chat Mayor West Dies

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Gay Chat Mayor West Dies

by The Associated Press

July 22, 2006 - 4:00 pm ET

(Spokane, Washington) Former Spokane Mayor James E. West, who opposed gay-rights bills but was recalled from office over an Internet gay sex scandal, died Saturday of complications from recent cancer surgery. He was 55.

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.

"As a family we wish to thank the caregivers at University of Washington Medical Center, and the many friends of Jim for their support and prayers," the family said in their statement.

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."

West acknowledged having relations with adult men but denied doing anything illegal. He was never criminally charged, although the FBI conducted a public corruption investigation.

After two terms in the House, West served four terms in the Senate, rising to senate majority leader before stepping down in 2003 to run for his "dream job" of Spokane mayor.

Less than 18 months into his four-year term, The Spokesman-Review began publishing its series on the mayor's online activities.

©365Gay.com 2006

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