CHEYENNE – Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray resigned Friday following two separate allegations of prior sexual misconduct within two months.
Murray made the unexpected announcement through a statement emailed to the media just before the close of business. He said no one asked him to resign.
“After deep and profound contemplation, I am announcing my resignation as secretary of state, effective today,” the statement said. “I step aside with peace and serenity in order that I may fully focus on what is most important in my life: my marriage, my family and my health.”
In December, Tatiana Maxwell, a Colorado resident, made allegations on Facebook that Murray assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they worked together at a Cheyenne law firm.
A second accuser, Theresa Sullivan Twiford, the daughter of former Democratic Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan, said in a January statement to the Casper Star-Tribune that Murray forcibly kissed her in 1988. Twiford now lives in Virginia.
Both women were 18 at the time the alleged incidents took place.
Murray forcefully denied the first allegation and said he could not recall the second alleged incident.
It all follows speculation last fall about whether Murray would enter the race to become Wyoming’s next governor. Before the allegations, Murray told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he was considering a run for governor, but planned to seek re-election as secretary of state should he not pursue higher office.
However, after the second allegation surfaced, Murray said in a statement he would not seek either office, though he did not specify whether it was related to the women’s claims.
In Friday’s resignation announcement, Murray said he felt he was unable to continue serving in office amid the accusations.
“I’ve come to the realization that I am unable to focus entirely on serving the good people of Wyoming while simultaneously needing to process all the fallout from these accusations for which I have issued previous statements,” Murray’s statement reads.
In reflecting on his time in office, Murray noted some highlights. His statement mentioned the electric filing service instituted during his tenure, the Wyoming Youth Voter Initiative and his role in the Panama Papers leak.
“Our Secretary of State team has accomplished more in three years than many ever thought possible,” Murray’s statement continues. “I truly am enormously thankful to the people of Wyoming for the honor and privilege of serving this great state during the past three years. I am eternally grateful to my wife and family and many friends and supporters through this journey – with its highest of highs and its lowest of lows.
“I want to thank the people of Wyoming who have offered me tremendous support during my tenure. I will never forget your lasting kindness.”
Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler will lead the office in the interim.
The Wyoming Republican Party is expected to submit the names of three people to Gov. Matt Mead, who will pick one to serve out the remainder of Murray’s term, which ends in January.
Two Wyoming residents announced this week they would seek the open secretary of state seat. Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, announced Thursday he would seek the office instead of another term in the Wyoming Legislature.
On Friday, Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he would seek the Republican nomination.
The allegations In December, Maxwell described an incident of apparent sexual assault at the Cheyenne law office where they both worked in which Murray forcibly kissed her, wrestled her to the carpet and performed an act that did not include sexual intrusion.
The second allegation described an incident on New Year’s Eve nearly 30 years ago when Twiford was babysitting for the Murrays in Cheyenne. She said Murray was “chatty” and asked if she was dating anyone, to which Twiford replied she was (the man who now is her husband).
When Murray and his wife, Caren, returned home around 1 a.m., Twiford said Murray followed her out to her car. Before she could sit down in the driver’s seat, Twiford said Murray “came up to me and abruptly put both of his hands on either side of my face, pulled me to him and forcibly kissed me.”
Maxwell specifically cited the #MeToo movement as an impetus for making her accusations when she did. Twiford did not respond to attempts by the WTE to contact her.
Maxwell said last month she doesn’t know Twiford, but was glad to see her come forward with an accusation she kept under wraps for more than three decades. Both women have ties to Democratic Party, donating funds and supporting candidates, but said their accusations were not political.
Twiford’s husband told the Casper Star-Tribune he remembers his wife telling him the story and that it remained consistent through the years. Maxwell’s estranged husband also confirmed he’d heard his ex-wife’s story for years without anything significant changing in the account.
When asked in January about what had happened since the Facebook post, Maxwell said she was contacted by former Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis of Cheyenne.
Maxwell said she interned for former Wyoming lawmaker Al Wiederspahn, a Democrat and Lummis’ husband, in 1982. Wiederspahn died in 2014.
After the story broke in December, Maxwell said Lummis called to hear the accusations from her directly. Lummis, Maxwell said, then told her she intended to request a meeting with Murray to ask him to resign.
Later on, Maxwell said Lummis contacted her again to confirm the meeting took place, where Murray apparently energetically denied the claims. Maxwell said she could not confirm whether Lummis asked Murray to resign during the meeting.
During the first conversation, Maxwell said Lummis told her “she’d heard similar allegations (against Murray) from several other sources.”
Lummis confirmed she spoke to Maxwell and Murray, but declined to comment any further on the matter.