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The mayor of Capitol Hill: Why you should vote for Jenny Durkan*

(Images: Alex Garland)

Seattle’s next mayor will be a woman. She will have two children. She will be wealthy. But there are, indeed, big differences between candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan. Earlier this week, we made the neighborhood case for a vote for Moon. Here is why you might consider Durkan.

Monday night at Seattle University, Durkan attended her fourth mayoral forum of the day. She had likely rehearsed her answers a dozen times but CHS found Durkan to prove an unexpected surprise on most topics. The former U.S. Attorney knows her stuff.

Her background strikes a chord. Durkan was born and raised in Issaquah and bee-bopped around Capitol Hill for middle and elementary school. She later volunteered at an Alaskan high school for a year teaching English where she travelled by boat to small villages. Durkan also lived in Washington D.C. for four and a half years.

During her time at law school, the mayoral candidate voluntarily counseled for the Black Prisoners Caucus. She went to a defense law clinic for the poor, or the “indigent” as she called them. Durkan helped pass a nondiscrimination bill in Olympia for LGBTQIA+ rights. For three decades prior, she fought for gay men’s rights in hospitals and hospice. Durkan was also the first citizen observer on police reform.

“For three years I sat in on every police shooting case there was,” Durkan said. “I have spent decades working for social justice in this city.”

Durkan also supports safe injection sites and needle exchanges. Her time as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington made her realize the scope of the opiate crisis.

“A lot of people are surprised by that because for a while I was a federal prosecutor,” she said. “If we need a public health response, we saw a criminal justice response did not work on the war on drugs in the ‘90s. I had a front row seat representing people charged with crimes.”

Durkan says these tactics are proven and she doesn’t condone illegal drug use. Rather, she said, the strategy is harm reduction.

“So now, we’re in a situation where we give people their safe needles and we now say ‘go to your car, go to the park, go in the streets,’” Durkan said. “That makes no sense at all. We need to have a place where people can use drugs under the supervision of a healthcare worker to make sure that they don’t die.”

Even more important to Durkan, however, are the services within those sites.

While Durkan seems bent on smoothing the system for those facing drug addiction, she doesn’t quite take on the same gusto for sexual assault victims.

“I have represented women who have experienced sexual abuse over the years… and people who have been wrongly accused.”

During Seattle University’s Monday debate, Durkan stood by her late resignation request for previous Mayor Ed Murray in light of the sexual abuse allegations against him. Her request was so late that it was an hour before Murray did actually step down, after five allegations.

“I think I made the right choice,” Durkan said. “I have represented women who have experienced sexual abuse over the years… and people who have been wrongly accused.”

A lesbian, Durkan said the LGBTQIA+ community viewed Murray as a model for change and equality. This isn’t exactly true. The LGBTQIA+ community remains heavily divided on Murray’s place in the region’s history and the response to those who say they are his victims.

Many view Durkan as the establishment candidate — although she rejects that notion — because she repeatedly states her trust in the courts. Still, she said Monday night that Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) discipline needs another look.

“One of the things I’m going to be watching, and watching carefully, is taking sure that the discipline system is actually holding the police accountable,” she said. Durkan referenced Officer Cynthia Whitlatch’s rehiring by SPD after she was fired for her actions in a “walking while black case.”

Yet, the candidate said “we never ever would’ve used our force against protesters” as a U.S. Attorney. “Never did we use the authority of our office to go after protesters.” But protesters were put before a grand jury in 2012 for May Day vandalism. Those who didn’t talk were thrown in jail.

As former Stranger writer Brendan Kiley reported at the time, one of the warrants in the case listed “black clothing, electronics, and ‘paperwork-anarchists in the Occupy movement,'” leading some to believe the case was based more on political ideology than evidence of involvement in May Day.

Durkan’s firm belief in the courts and their ability to arrive at justice is troubling to some. But she acknowledges young black men are repeatedly gunned down by police, and she said she backs the sexually abused but has also stood next to the wrongly accused. How can one back a system if the system is broken, then use the system to fix itself? This is one question Durkan and her campaign continue to need to answer.

Still, Durkan does seem a lot more pointed and more experienced when it comes to the job of being Mayor of Seattle.

“We’ve identified pretty much the same problems,” Durkan said of herself and Moon. “We have different approaches. Hers is one of a planner. Mine isn’t just plans, but getting things done.”

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14 thoughts on “The mayor of Capitol Hill: Why you should vote for Jenny Durkan*

  1. I would hardly call that a pro Durkan piece. Unlike the glowing Moon piece. It’s clear who the author of these articles is supporting in the race for Mayor.

    • That’s for sure. That was about as “Fair and Balanced” as Faux News. Nice try.
      Oh well, it’s good to recognize biased reporting when you see it.

    • I don’t know if the candidate comparison is as unbalanced as you think it is. My take away is that CHS likes Moon’s platform a bit more, but believes Durkan may be in a better position to deliver results. For me, this whole race has been about balancing vision with ability to deliver.

    • Hey all! I genuinely appreciate being alerted when people feel my reporting has missed something. So, please, by all means, continue to do that when relevant and important. I do my best to remain accountable to you all, and so does CHS in general.

      I would like to state for clarity that I attended Seattle U’s Monday night debate with an open mind and without leaning toward either candidate because I honestly felt like I didn’t know enough about either of them.

      I wrote each pro-Durkan/Moon piece how I did because that’s what I gathered coming out of that debate. I’d never watched a full debate between either of them before my coverage. This piece is also in part a result of Durkan’s campaign finding zero time for me to do a phone interview with her. I only got approximately 10 minutes one-on-one time with Durkan immediately before and after the Monday debate; I was allowed a 20 minute, one-on-one phone call with Moon, in comparison.

      As stated in this piece, I was actually surprised to hear Durkan’s background and felt that lent her a lot of credibility and she clearly has a lot of experience that, on this front alone, puts her at a better position for mayor.

      The negatives in Durkan’s piece are a result of what came out of that very Monday night debate. I report what I find. I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t.

      In talking with Moon, readers, audience members, and scanning through other articles, there wasn’t any negative thing I found of note on her by the time of publication. The same simply didn’t happen with Durkan.

      Moon’s piece was additionally typed up before the mayoral debate, whereas Durkan’s was after. Had I been able to foresee Moon’s Monday night proposition of letting neighborhoods dictate their own growth, I would’ve pointed out in her piece that that’s problematic because we’ve seen how inequality grows in similar tactics within SPS [and as a result of redlining].

      I understand how you feel Durkan’s piece is more negative than Moon’s, and in all honesty I’ll recognize it is. But that didn’t happen without reason, nor did it happen with bias. I do my best to set my own thoughts aside (if I have them) and report things as they occur before me. That’s what I did here. Feel free to reach out to me any time with further concerns, though! Again, I really do appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Durkan seems okay. But why go for just okay when you can have someone truly dedicated to building a better city for all like Moon?

  3. I’d like to know if Durkan will name names re: land developers and their investment funds like Moon, and if she will stand up to them as Moon promises to do. Durks has MUCH more legal/civic know-how, but will she use it to put reins on developers’ vulgar excesses?

  4. I still feel the candidates are very similar in many ways, but that Durkan does represent more experience at administering an office and a city that has so many employees to lead. Is she perfect, no. But look at the white house to see the problem of inexperience.

  5. “While Durkan seems bent on smoothing the system for those facing drug addiction, she doesn’t quite take on the same gusto for sexual assault victims.“

    This subtle editorializing is off-putting, and there was no counter-point for Moon’s actions on this issue in the other article (not that the timing of a condemnation is anything other than politically driven for all involved).

  6. As Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, save all those others that have been tried from time to time.

    You editorialize that Durkin needs proposals to “fix” the justice system. But you don’t seem to have asked yourself “is there a fix” or “is the system trying to balance between difficult and competing priorities,” such as the rights of the accused and the rights of victims?

  7. While I agree that Kelsey’s writing tends to have a social justice bent and an editorializing tone, I really enjoyed her take on why to vote for one over the other.

    I’ll be voting for Durkan, mostly due to Cary’s lack of any experience other than activism. While having the right ideas can be important, we saw with Mayor McGinn (who I voted for twice) how difficult it can be just to have good ideas but no political capital or managerial experience. Cary’s resume, in my opinion, is too thin for this job, it’s mostly side work from what I can see. I would vote for her for city council, but not mayor.

    • Yeah, cuz that’s almost like her raping somebody herself, right?
      Minor point— Murray hasn’t been charged or tried or convicted of anything. But judge him anyway.