After a year battling the COVID-19 crisis and struggling with ongoing Black Lives Matter and anti-police unrest in the city, Jenny Durkan has announced she will not seek reelection after finishing her term as Mayor of Seattle next year.
“I have decided not to run for reelection because Seattle, we still have some tough months ahead,” Durkan said in a video statement on the decision. “I will focus on leading our city as we plan to reopen and distribute a vaccine, support our workers and small businesses, continue reimagining community safety, and addressing challenges like the West Seattle Bridge, homelessness, and climate change.”
“Together, we can get through this, and come back stronger, better and more equitable,” Durkan said in the one minute, 55 second video that plays much like a campaign ad and has been paid for by her reelection campaign.
The former federal prosecutor cruised to victory in 2017 easily besting her more progressive opponent, Cary Moon in the wake of the Ed Murray sex abuse scandal. Durkan became the first woman to lead the city since 1926 and the first out lesbian mayor in the Pacific Northwest.
While Durkan says the decision not to fight for reelection will allow her to focus on the major issues facing the city including COVID and the West Seattle bridge, addressing most of the issues she includes in the video would also have gone a long way in a bid to retain her office.
On Capitol Hill, Durkan last week pledged her support for an “urgent” effort to reopen Cal Anderson and remove the barricade wall from around the neighborhood’s East Precinct moves that would also require the city addressing challenging issues around homelessness and encampments in the park and the ongoing anti-police marches and sometimes nightly clashes with police.
The last Seattle mayor to serve a second consecutive term was Greg Nickels whose term ended in 2009.
Durkan foreshadowed her ambivalence about the role this summer as she described thoughts of “a Thelma and Louise moment” for her and SPD Chief Carmen Best as controversy grew around the evacuation of the East Precinct and CHOP. Best resigned weeks later. Durkan will finish her term before that movie moment fully plays out.
The move leaves one candidate currently announced for the 2021 mayor’s race. SEED Seattle’s Director of Economic Development and Interim Executive Director Lance Randall announced his candidacy earlier this year. But the race is sure to thicken. Both of the Seattle City Council’s at-large members, council president Lorena González and her counterpart Teresa Mosqueda, could mount a challenge. Meanwhile, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant remains undefeated in the city since her unsuccessful run for the state legislature. How she’d fare in a citywide election could be another story.
In addition to lacking an incumbent candidate, the 2021 race will also be notable as the first time the city’s Democracy Vouchers can be used for mayoral candidates.
This month, meanwhile, the City Council will take up Durkan’s request for the city to pay $240,000 in legal costs incurred in her successful effort to have a recall campaign against her tossed out.
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