by Elizabeth Turnbull
At the end of a demanding year responding to the COVID-19 crisis and overseeing controversial police tactics during to Black Lives Matter protests, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Dec. 7 that she will not seek re-election.
In several interviews and in a video announcing her decision, Durkan said her decision came down to a choice: Run a successful re-election campaign or devote all her attention to being mayor in the final year of her term.
“I could spend the next year campaigning to keep this job or focus all my energy on doing the job,” Durkan said. “There was only one right choice for our city: Doing the job.”
To gauge how the South End feels about the mayor’s eventual departure, the Emerald spoke with local groups and community members about what the mayor’s decision means to them and their view for the city.
“Not running for a second term is the best decision Mayor Durkan can make,” Tracy Rector, managing director of storytelling at the Nia Tero Foundation said. “She’s had a rough term and now she can make way for someone with a fresh, forward-thinking vision for this great city.”
Jesiah Wurtz, co-owner of South Seattle’s Cafe Red, felt that Durkan’s choice not to run for reelection is connected to the mayor’s “war” against local activists.
“Durkan’s decision demonstrates that her war against activists and community organizers has made her own re-election impossible, and she knows it,” Wurtz told the Emerald. “I’m happy to know we will no longer have to deal with her corporate-centered policies and her authoritarian use of SPD [Seattle Police Department] and hope we have the opportunity to elect a mayor who truly has the people of Seattle in their heart.”
On Thursday, Dec. 10, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a written ruling explaining why it unanimously rejected a petition to recall Durkan in October. The recall petition argued that Durkan violated her oath of office by allowing SPD to use large quantities of tear gas and crowd control weapons in response to BLM protests this past summer.
In an op-ed for The Seattle Times, Durkan listed her achievements, including investments in affordable housing, free transit passes for students, protections for rideshare drivers and domestic workers, and a $100 million dollar investment to benefit BIPOC communities, among other things.
Since Durkan’s announcement of the $100 million dollar investment in September, the City Council redirected $70 million of those dollars to go toward health, community safety, and affordable housing, leaving $30 million for Durkan and the task force she created to spend on still-unspecified projects to benefit BIPOC communities next year.
King County Equity Now — a Black-led coalition that took issue with the mayor’s handling of the investment process — released a statement after Durkan announced that she would not seek re-election, describing the mayor’s decision not to run again as evidence that a second term would not be welcome.
“We acknowledge her decision not to run as a clear, overwhelming referendum by Seattleites — and particularly Black Seattletes — that the old normal is no longer acceptable,” the statement read. “Leadership must be pro-Black, visionary, representative and accountable to the people — not the [Seattle Metropolitan] Chamber [of Commerce].”
The BIPOC Executive Director Coalition struck a more nuanced tone.
“On behalf of the BIPOC Executive Director Coalition, we respect her decision and will continue our shared work to ensure an equitable Seattle for BIPOC communities,” Kelly Blouin-Powers, project manager at the BIPOC Executive Director Coalition, told the Emerald. “We’re looking forward to working with our next mayor to continue pushing this work forward, see resources provided to BIPOC communities, and continue striving towards a just Seattle.”
Following Durkan’s announcement, Seattle residents are questioning who will eventually fill Durkan’s shoes. Thus far, some see a potential scenario where current City Council members M. Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda vie for the position or where 2017 mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell runs as well.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist.
Featured image by Susan Fried.