Tuesday’s election results gave Jenny Durkan a formidable 21-point lead over rival Cary Moon. At the Westin hotel in downtown Seattle, Durkan celebrated the news without declaring victory.
But Durkan said she’s also preparing for a rapid transition to the mayor’s office.
The crowded hotel ballroom erupted in cheers as Washington state senator Reuven Carlyle formally announced Durkan’s sizeable lead in the mayor’s race, setting the stage for Seattle’s first female mayor since the 1920s.
As she celebrated the initial results, Durkan hearkened back to her role as Governor Chris Gregoire’s lawyer in the recounts after the 2004 governor’s race.
“Now I know there are a lot of votes left to be counted. And anyone who knows me knows I like to count every … single … vote. But I have to tell you, we are feeling really, really good about where we are,” she said.
Meanwhile at her campaign gathering near Pike Place Market, Moon said she was struggling against Durkan’s financial clout.
“We're up against really tough odds,” Moon said. “And campaign spending by our opponent broke city elections records, outspending us three to one.”
The crowd booed. “Boo,” Moon agreed.
Durkan in her campaign speech pledged if elected to give everyone in Seattle the right to shelter and a home, and to offer two years of free community college tuition.
“And for you parents out there who are struggling so hard to get by, and you’re worried about your kids and you’re trying to get them through school, please know that if they graduate from a Seattle Public School, college is on the way,” she said.
And she promised to be a fierce critic of the president.
“Can I just say to Donald Trump,” she added, “keep your hands off Seattle.”
The current mayor Tim Burgess was in the crowd. He said he’d urged Durkan to run once Mayor Ed Murray – embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal – said he would not seek reelection.
“I am delighted,” Burgess said. “We have apparently elected a very, very capable woman to lead our city going forward. I have total confidence in her.”
Durkan was believed to be the first openly gay U.S. attorney when she was appointed by President Obama in 2009. Supporter Lisa Dahl said she was excited to have Durkan in the mayor’s office especially amid all the current scandals over sexual harassment by men.
“Because not enough women hold these positions and certainly not enough gay women hold these positions,” Dahl said. “And it just, to me, is a beacon of light to young women who want to pursue a career.”
Attorney Chris Stearns, former chair of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, said he was impressed with Durkan’s role in investigating Seattle police after an officer shot John T. Williams in 2009. “Communities of color, under-represented communities – we really needed someone to help lead our struggle,” he said. “I’d like to think she’d be the perfect person to keep on leading police reform.”
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien supported Cary Moon in the election. But he noted that the candidates had a similar approach to major issues.
"Jenny and Cary agree that we need more transit, they agree climate change is real, they know we're in a homeless crisis, they know affordable housing has got to be addressed by some style of subsidizing it, so the distinctions on a policy level are pretty narrow,” O’Brien said.
Durkan said she will announce a transition team shortly and be ready to be sworn in at the end of November, when election results are certified.