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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.
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.