Mayor’s Race: As Seattle Goes, So Goes the Country

by Brian Stout

With worsening dysfunction at the federal level, it is increasingly clear that any hope for large-scale progressive change must come from cities and states.  Confronted by a Trump agenda that seeks to sacrifice critical social and environmental protections on the altar of corporate profit, the next mayor of Seattle is uniquely positioned to demonstrate that there is a better path. 

We are fortunate this year to have a number of qualified candidates facing off in the August 1st primary election. But last Monday’s mayoral debate made clear that Nikkita Oliver and Cary Moon stand out in a crowded field for their clarity of vision, advancing an unapologetic agenda that emphasizes building civic health over corporate wealth.

The crises we face – in Seattle as in other cities across the country – arise from a common cause.  One that I have seen firsthand in my international development work, and increasingly here in our own country.  Namely, an economic and political system that prioritizes economic growth above all else.  A system that abdicates democratic accountability to the mythical wisdom of the “free market”, letting decisions about issues as fundamental as basic health care and affordable housing be decided by distant shareholders instead of affected community members.   

We tell ourselves that the crises of unaffordable housing, homelessness, opioid addiction, failing public education, and mass incarceration are unintended consequences rather than inevitable results.  We pretend not to see the role of race, gender, income, or disability in the policy decisions that produced these outcomes.  We prefer not to acknowledge that the “invisible hand” in fact has always belonged to wealthy white men who thumb the scales in their favor (redlining here in Seattle being but one prominent example). 

In last Monday’s debate, Oliver and Moon were the only ones to acknowledge the root causes driving these seemingly disparate crises, and to emphasize the damaging role of rising income inequality.  Among the six progressives gathered on stage, they were alone in recognizing the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on communities of color, and in calling out a justice system that criminalizes poverty.

Perhaps most important: Oliver and Moon are unique among the candidates in offering strategic visions adequate to the challenge.  Yes they have strong policy positions on the key issues.  But they differentiate themselves in their commitment to returning power to the community, explicitly rejecting the plutocratic politics that got us to this point.  Each offers a compelling vision that elevates human wellbeing to its rightful place as the primary focus of government: by the people, for the people. 

In Seattle as in America, the time for incremental reform has passed.  We know the status quo is not sustainable.  We need leaders capable of imagining – and then creating – a new and better world.  Leaders who recognize that it’s not only the policy that matters, but how we engage those communities most affected in defining and implementing that policy. 

Nikkita Oliver and Cary Moon have each outlined a vision for our city that can serve as an important counterpoint to a toxic agenda emerging from the other Washington (D.C.).  Something more than a laundry list of progressive policies, or even the important but insufficient work of “resistance.” It’s not enough to oppose negative change: we must also promote positive change.  And do so in a way that invites those who made a different choice last November to join us in creating a new model.  Many of our sister cities in places like Texas and North Carolina have no choice but to focus on defense.  We in Seattle have the luxury, and the responsibility, to go a step farther. 

We have an opportunity in this primary to send a clear signal – to Seattle and to the country – that we stand for something better. 

brian headshotBrian Stout is a Seattle-based independent consultant, former U.S. diplomat, member of the Truman National Security Project, and board member of Humanity in Action.  Current professional interests include progressive politics and combating income inequality.  You can follow him on Twitter and Medium @CitizenStout.

3 thoughts on “Mayor’s Race: As Seattle Goes, So Goes the Country”

  1. If I might make a modest proposal to Moon, Oliver, and perhaps Farrell, to agree to a collaborative candidacy. They would draw straws to decide which one would stay in the campaign, the others would drop out and throw their support to that candidate. Further, they would agree that if the one who stays in the race wins, the new mayor would hire the other(s) as high level staff members and use a consensus method to shape policy. It would be truly radical if the mayor and the other(s) pooled the mayor and staff salaries and each got paid equally.

    This would actually give us a chance to have a candidate who could make it to the general election and have a chance of beating Durkan.

  2. Who does Seattle need for mayor? Seattle is a major mover in the industry of the State. Seattle’s budget is close to 6 Billion dollars. Like it or not Seattle is BIG business. It has many issues. We have all heard about the problems in the Police department. We have made major strides in solving these problems. Which candidate has been a moving force in making needed changes? Which of the candidates have had positions of importance? How about being the federal attorney for the western regions of the US? Her name is Jennie Durkan.

    After graduating from Notre Dame, she moved to an Inuit fishing village on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, where she taught English and coached a girls basketball team. In Alaska, she also worked as a baggage handler for Wien Air Alaska in St. Mary’s and was a dues paying Teamster.

    Durkan earned her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1985. While in law school, Durkan participated in a pilot Criminal Defense clinic, working with the public defender’s office to represent individuals charged in Seattle municipal court.
    Durkan returned to Seattle in 1991, and established a successful practice focusing on criminal defense and work on behalf of plaintiffs, including the family of Lt. Walter Kilgore who died in the Pang warehouse fire, the case of Stan Stevenson (a retired firefighter who was stabbed leaving a Mariners game) and the case of Kate Fleming, who died from a flash flood in her own Madison Valley basement.

    Among her most prominent cases in private practice was winning the 2005 recount lawsuit that attempted to undo Governor Chris Gregoire’s election as governor in 2004. The Democratic Party turned to Durkan with Gregoire’s election “facing an unprecedented trial and Republicans trying to remove her from office.”

    She worked with families and other attorneys at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to prevent the return of individuals who had arrived lawfully at the airport the day President Donald Trump’s first Travel Ban executive order went into effect.

    After serving as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, she joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to head a new Seattle office, specializing in internet and online security issues.

    She served on the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission from 1993 to 1996. She served as the first Citizen Observer on the Seattle Police Firearms Review Board from 1997–2000 and two Seattle mayors asked her to serve on Citizen Review Committees for the Seattle Police Department. She also played an advisory role on the establishment of the King County Drug Court and the Mental Health Court. She later helped create a specialized drug program in the federal courts in Western Washington.

    She served on the non-profit board of the Center for Women and Democracy from 2000–09, as a founding Board Member for the Seattle Police Foundation from 2002–04, and as the Chair of the Washington State Attorney General’s Task Force on Consumer Privacy which resulted in legislation that became a national model for identity theft protections.

    In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Durkan to be the U.S Attorney for the Western District of Washington, which covers 19 counties and is home to 4.6 million people (78% of the state’s population).

    While U.S. Attorney, Durkan created a Civil Rights Department in the office. It coordinates a variety of civil rights cases and outreach, including a number of cases on behalf of returning veterans. She also has helped push police reform efforts in the Seattle Police Department after a Department of Justice investigation found a pattern and practice of excessive use of force.

    Durkan worked with the public schools to ensure internet safety tips for parents and kids were sent home with kids at the beginning of the school year.

    Durkan has focused on terrorism and national security issues, including the prosecution of two men who plotted to blow up a military recruitment facility in Seattle.

    As U.S. Attorney, Durkan has used the federal law against felons possessing firearms to crack down on career criminals in Western Washington. Cases referred for felons-with-guns charges increased 45 percent in the past three years compared with the previous three years. She is keeping us safe.

    Durkan has pushed “hot spot” initiatives in high-crime areas to address drug and gun sales. These intensive investigations and law enforcement operations resulted in dozens of arrests and weapons confiscations.
    Durkan is lesbian. She and her partner, Dana Garvey, live in Seattle and have two sons. She was the first openly gay U.S. Attorney. However she is known for being a top attorney and one who has experience managing a large staff. She is know for taking on failing systems and making them work properly. She is gay, but that is not her defining feature.
    She is up to the job of leading and guiding Seattle in a fiscally responsible manner. It is time we got 5.5 Billion dollars of service from our City. It is time to see that our tax monies are well spent. NO CANDIDATE COMES CLOSE TO MATCHING HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS. or is more qualified to be MAYOR. I have lived and worked in Seattle for over 60 years. I am proud to add my name to those in favor of Jenny Durkan. Fred Quarnstrom, DDS

  3. For such a big supporter of Jenny Durkan, you should at least learn how to spell her first name. Like Murray, Durkan will provide great support for the developers and do nothing about the homeless crisis. She’s refused to say she’ll stop the sweeps of homeless people, because, she says, she’s “compassionate,” and “people shouldn’t have to live that way.” I’m supporting Nikkita Oliver, who provides a real alternative for Seattle.