Former U.S Attorney Becomes Seattle’s First Female Mayor Since 1928

By Emelia Persell

Seattle’s mayoral election made history this week. Jenny Durkan, 59, was elected mayor, the first woman to hold the office since 1928 and the first openly lesbian mayor in the history of the city. Seattle’s last female mayor was Bertha Knight Landes, the namesake of Seattle’s tunnel boring machine. Durkan won in a resounding victory, carrying 66.62 percent of the vote, as opposed to her opponent, urban planner and engineer Carol Consuela “Cary” Moon, 54, who took 39.61 percent of the vote. She will take over for Tim Burgess, the acting mayor for Edward Murray, who resigned in September. Durkan’s extensive background and qualifications drove her success in this election.


Durkan was educated at Notre Dame and earned her law degree at University of Washington. She went on to serve under the Obama administration as the first openly gay U.S. attorney, representing the Western District of Washington from 2009 to 2014. In June of 2017, she aided in preventing the detainment of individuals from the Middle East after President Trump’s travel ban was instated and assisted in obtaining one of the first federal court orders to prohibit the travel ban. Durkan has made it clear that she expects to oppose the Trump administration, stating during a mayoral forum that “Donald Trump’s values are so antithetical to our values that we will unavoidably be in battle.” Trump has not commented on this statement or the results of the Seattle mayoral election thus far.


During her time as a U.S. attorney, she also worked with various organizations to reform the Seattle police department, ensuring that police training emphasizes de-escalation of conflicts and a decrease in use of force. She has stated that she “worked to move a model where police are trained to be guardians, not warriors.” She has also asserted that she hopes to move the police force in this direction while in office.


Durkan’s education plan was one of the most prominent ideas of her campaign. She has stated that she aims to make preschool more available to parents by making it more affordable.Additionally, she plans award two years of free college to students who graduate from Seattle public schools, claiming that this plan will cost 4.3 million dollars to initiate with an additional cost of 7 million dollars each year. Durkan said during the mayoral debate, “I am confident that I can find 5 million, 4.7 million, in the budget to pay for colleges.” Durkan raised $970,204.19 during her campaign.


Seattle’s homelessness epidemic was at the forefront of all of the mayoral campaigns this election. During the debate, Moon criticized Durkan’s approval of homeless sweeps- a practice of evicting homeless individuals from illegal camps. Durkan’s plan includes improving homeless shelters, adding 50-100 new beds and possibly opening up community centers during their non-business hours to act as homeless shelters. Durkan also plans to build 1,000 new “tiny houses,” in her first year, homes just big enough to meet a family’s needs. She hopes to build these at $10,000 per house. Durkan does not have a concrete plan to come up with the money, hoping for a “combination of volunteer power and contracts with companies.”


Durkan’s opponent, Cary Moon, conceded on Wednesday, writing in a letter to supporters, “l have offered my congratulations to Jenny Durkan, Seattle’s first woman mayor in 90 years.” Durkan gave her acceptance speech earlier this week, saying, “ninety two years later, Seattle is about to have a new woman mayor. Just imagine what they’re going to blame on me.”


Seattle has been settled for over 4,000 years, established in 1851, making the city 166 years old. However, Durkan is the only the second female mayor and the first lesbian in a city which carries a liberal reputation worldwide. Durkan’s actions now will likely decide how favorably Seattle will view female mayors for a long time to come.


Durkan takes office on November 28.

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