When the Mayor’s Race Got Real

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by Sharayah Lane

One of my main issues with mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan has been that, publicly, they seem so similar on so many issues. Deciding on how to vote in the November 9 election has come down to the need to dig deeper into who the candidates are and what they stand for.

It was this reasoning that led me to accept the role as one of six panelists for Wednesday night’s mayoral debate hosted by Rainier Valley Radio (KVRU 105.7FM). The forum was presented as a way to give South End voters a better look at their two options for mayor.

During the forum, I ended up asking a question that resulted in Jenny Durkan snatching the microphone from moderator and event host Sharon Maeda, leading to both candidates dragging former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver into some weird “credibility test.”

A large swath of  South Seattle voted for Nikkita in the primary and is now left with two candidates that many of them did not initially support. The night’s event was a Q&A format with panelists having the chance to pose one question to each candidate. The format needed to be changed on short notice to accommodate Jenny Durkan’s need to leave halfway through the forum for a family event. This resulted in the second half being dedicated to a conversation style format with Cary Moon.

The event began with great questions probing the candidates’’ stances on issues such as gentrification, protections against the policies of the federal government, and housing affordability zones. My question, which was directed at Durkan, was one of the last.

I’ve heard people in community conversations call Durkan the “business as usual candidate.” Her campaign has amassed an almost record breaking amount of money, and she’s been criticized for being one of the last public dignitaries to call for Ed Murray’s resignation, many believe, because of his endorsement of her campaign.

I asked:

in conversations in the community (or “word on the street”) is that you have often been labeled the “business as usual candidate” who has a history of not being firmly rooted in set principles, instead changing positions based on what is popular – most recently being late to ask for Ed Murray’s resignation and having a long list of wealthy donors. What is your response to this critique?

I wanted to give Durkan a chance to address this critique before she left and it’s at that point when things got real out of line.

She started off her answer by saying that holding that critique is “a slap in the face of the people who support [her].” She went on to say how less than 1 percent of her campaign is funded by big donors (note one percent of her individual contributions not 1 percent of the total amount her campaign has raised) and then pivoted to calling out Moon for  personally funding her own campaign with money that Moon inherited from her family’s business.

Moon responded by sharing that internally her campaign calls the $525,000 that Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce sponsored Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy contributed to an independent expenditure group named People for Jenny Durkan, Durkan’s $525k panic button.

What happened next was a microaggression followed by direct aggression as Durkan literally ripped the mic out of Sharon Maeda’s hand, breaking the rules of the forum, in order to rebut Moon’s “emergency button” comment.

The back and forth then turned from one woman of color to another as Durkan pointed to Nikkita saying that if Moon didn’t have all her family’s money it would be Oliver answering questions with her on stage, not Moon.

Following those comments Moon offered the mic to Nikkita saying that she was “uncomfortable seeing [her] being used.” Nikkita tweeted about the exchange later in the evening saying plainly that what happened was racist.

The goal of the night’s events was to dig a bit deeper into the two remaining mayoral candidates voters have as options. I believe that we got a chance to see another side of both. Moon routinely displayed her insecurities about running for office for the first time while taking on a political machine like Durkan.

Jenny Durkan’s response to criticism and concern from the communities was combative and dismissive. Ballots have been released as early as today. If you are interested in hearing the whole conversation KRVU will be airing the forum daily, at different times to help South End voters get a better idea of the candidates.

And in reflection, as a journalist it was a very clear reminder to me of how important it is to show up and ask the tough questions. My question directed at Jenny Durkan was not an attack on her character nor was it an endorsement of Moon (because frankly I still haven’t decided on who I support), but it was an opportunity to be a voice of the community. These are the types of conversations I’ve had with friends, family and co-workers.

 It is more important than ever to make sure that those voices have an opportunity to be at the table even when corporations are lobbying, major news outlets in Seattle have already picked a side, and when the city of Seattle is showing through policy and legislation that our voices don’t matter.

Now is the time to hold our local politicians accountable.  

Sharayah LaneSharayah Lane is an active seeker of good stories and social justice in Seattle. She is a new mama who loves spending time with her son Ian and watching him discover the world.  She enjoys long naps, good books, and enjoying the beauty of the PNW. 


22 thoughts on “When the Mayor’s Race Got Real”

  1. thank you sharayah, this is a great piece. while i’m sad i didn’t get a chance to tune in myself, i appreciate your interpretation of the events. i found this quote in particular to be especially prescient, or at least hit the nail on the head as to why i’ve personally been so lukewarm and uninspired by this race since the primary:

    “Moon routinely displayed her insecurities about running for office for the first time while taking on a political machine like Durkan. Jenny Durkan’s response to criticism and concern from the communities was combative and dismissive. “

  2. This is all window dressing. We should be talking about issues like homelessness, housing, transportation taxation, keeping good-paying jobs in Seattle, etc. Seattle is the most successful city in America today. What’s so bad about “business as usual?”

    1. Yes, that our potential mayor has a juvenile temperament is “window dressing.” If she can’t handle a panel of local journalists, I’d hate to see how she’d fair as CEO of our city.

  3. From what I have read, Moon may be more likely to invite Nikkita Oliver’s contributions as a way of including her base in the conversation. Or perhaps that’s just what I hope happens, if Moon takes the mayor’s office. No matter what happens, we ended up with *three* strong women as a candidates and that’s something

  4. The Durkan mic snatch was so vey telling of her demeanor and how she is going to handle tough situations. She came across as someone who is well versed in knowing what to say to make proteome happy. When she tried to goad Moon into reacting, Moon didn’t. Moon was not afraid to say there were things she didn’t know and she was not afraid to bring everyone to the table to help her get a better understanding. She isn’t afraid to make the decision, she just wants to be sure she’s well informed. That’s not insecurity, that’s someone who truly is concerned for the city. I didn’t get that fromDurkan. Durkan clearly does not want to be challenged on anything. Durkan also spoke proudly that she hasn’t used any of her own money and made it sound like Moon was doing something dirty by using her money. I don’t understand that. I’d like to k know my candidate is investing in herself instead of expecting the people tofinance her. Durkan lost me. We don’t need all that ego running the city.

  5. The name of our next mayor will turn on voter turnout. The more people who vote, the more likely Moon will be elected because, right or wrong, she is perceived as to the left of Durkan. (I think it’s an accurate perception.) Durkan’s biggest problem is her character. Moon’s biggest problem is voter apathy.

    Please dig that ballot off your stack of mail, fill it out, and vote!

  6. Durkan is right tho aint she? If it wasnt for Moon’s personal finances, she wouldnt have had the fiscal muscle to match Oviler’s exceptionally motivated and cohesive campaign.

  7. Sharayah,

    Conversations in the community — or the word on the street — is that you have often been labeled a dishonest incompetent journalist that couldn’t even write a complete sentence if your life depended on it. How you respond to those comments?

    1. Maybe you should actually go talk to Sharayah face to face. I’m guessing your a “digital tiger” who’d cower against someone with the integrity of Sharayah. What exactly is dishonest about what she wrote?

      1. LOL Jazmine. What I wrote is the same question Sharayah asked Durkan right before this clip, except about being a journalist instead of a politician. The majority of the words I used were the exact same words that came out of Sharayah’s mouth right before this video clip. So if you find my question insulting, you should take a good hard look at this author.

        She did it intentionally to rile her up in order to make a fake news story. (and somehow even managed to make something that had literally nothing to do with race all about race). Don’t yon’t think its odd that Sharayah didn’t find it necessary to actually report on what Durkan *said*?

  8. Umm you still didn’t answer my question. You stated she was dishonest. What was dishonest about anything she said? You can’t name anything or else you would’ve. Instead, you want to change the subject to something else. Guess what had Durkan not acted like a 5 year old an grabbed the microphone because she got her feelings hurt there would’ve been nothing to report. She never once said Durkan was racist, and even states she isn’t sure who she’s voting for. Did you miss the part where she called Cary Moon insecure? I know non-binary thinking is hard in this day and age (she said something I didn’t like about Durkan so she must be a Moon supported) but you may want to really try it.

    1. > She never once said Durkan was racist

      Yes she did. She stated Durkan performed a microaggression. A microaggression is a racist act. (Well, it be a sexist act too, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what was meant here.)

      > dishonest

      Using questions like “well, the community says something” — or “so people are saying” is a dishonest news tactic (a tactic mastered by Fox News and Trump, btw – https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-lot-of-people-are-saying-how-trump-spreads-conspiracies-and-innuendo/2016/06/13/b21e59de-317e-11e6-8ff7-7b6c1998b7a0_story.html?utm_term=.e392f1de310e) . They are presupposing the answer in the question. Its weasel words used to getting around an attack by pretending that other people are responsible for the words. If Lane wants to ask Durkan why she is a unprincipled politician, that’s fine. Don’t be a coward and pretend that other, unnamed people said it.

      Look, the world is a complicated place. But if you can’t see when someone has *intentionally* baited and insulted someone just for a story, I think you’re the one that suffers from “binary thinking”

      1. Please copy and paste were she said Durkan was racist. Oh, what’s that? You can’t. So basically you’re guilty of what you’re accusing Sharayah of, inference with no hard facts. And maybe you should actually spend some time in the community. Go to the Rainier Beach Safeway, Hillman bars, etc. Those aren’t “unnamed people” saying anything. You seem to be basing your opinion on feelings, or what you want to be true, not actual evidence. I can guarantee you that Sharayah’s question is one that a lot of people have here at least in my neighborhood. But perhaps you’re too scared to go up and talk to People of Color about their opinions. If Durkan can’t handle a 25-year-old woman asking a very legitimate question, I shudder to think how she’ll react when facing an adverse situation with ramifications for us all. It the KVRU debate was a test, she failed miserably. My guess is you’ll stay bottled in your cocoon and actually never talk to POC folks who have different opinons, because actual human interaction means you have to be vulnerable and less smug. That’ll be a shame. I’ve got a life to get onto but thank you for chatting.

  9. I did copy and paste it. If you don’t know what microagression actually means, there probably isn’t much use in continuing this conversation.

    Also, I am a POC. So yeah… Have a good one.