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caption: Jenny Durkan talks to KUOW reporter Amy Radil on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, on 1st Ave. South, in Seattle, Washington.
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Jenny Durkan talks to KUOW reporter Amy Radil on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, on 1st Ave. South, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Clues to why Jenny Durkan won’t run again, and what to expect in the interim

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this week that she will not run for re-election in 2021. KUOW’s politics reporter David Hyde reports on what comes next.

Mayor Durkan said she won't run because the city faces just too many huge challenges right now, including Covid-19 — that was really first and foremost — and that she doesn't want to be distracted by a political campaign.

“I could spend the next year campaigning to keep this job, or focus all my energy on doing the job," Durkan said in a video statement that the mayor's office released this week.. "I've decided not to run for re-election, because Seattle, we still have some tough months ahead.”

At this point, it's speculation, but obviously Durkan has had a lot of conflict with activists and with the City Council over issues including homelessness, and over what to do about police violence.

I spoke with former councilmember and Mayor Tim Burgess about the mayor's decision, and he's a supporter of the mayor. But he said the atmosphere in politics these days, not just in Seattle, but really nationally, is just so toxic and marked by personal attacks, that it really makes it harder for elected officials to govern.

He pointed to specific things, like threats of violence and misogynistic graffiti painted outside Durkan’s home, but also this tendency nowadays in politics to attack people for their character a little bit more so than focusing on their policies. Whatever you think of that assessment, Burgess is basically saying that's one of the reasons why Durkan decided not to run again.

I also spoke to Heather Weiner about this. She's an influential Seattle political consultant who is not a big fan of the mayor. She argues that Seattle politics has moved further left and that it's going to continue to move even further left, meaning to the left of Durkan.

She speculates that the mayor has decided not to run for practical reasons: Her poll numbers are not as good as they could be, and that the mayor maybe felt that she needs to step aside now to make room for another center-left candidate, somewhat like her, who's going to need some time to essentially raise money and get their ducks in a row.

A lot of protesters do not like this mayor. There was a recall campaign over the use of tear gas this summer. It didn't go anywhere — it was killed in the Supreme Court. That was something that Durkan faced.

Left Twitter, if you looked at it, has been very happy this week after Durkan announced that she wouldn't run. And of course, the right has also been very critical of Durkan over how she handled protests.

From their point of view, she was too lenient in letting the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP, continue. Right-wing talk show hosts were also on Twitter celebrating. Whatever you think of those claims, it's hard to imagine that all of that heat from the left and the right didn't play some sort of role here.

Typically [outgoing politicians] have less power. I think Durkan hopes that she's taking the politics out of this, insofar as that's possible, by not running. In terms of issues, she mentioned rebuilding the economy, rebuilding downtown, addressing homelessness, and building greater equity. So it's true — the city really does have a lot on its plate.

As for who might be considering a run for Mayor in 2021, some of the names being floated include city council members Lorena Gonzales and Teresa Mosqueda, and former Democratic state lawmaker Jessyn Farrell.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.