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caption: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference during the summer of 2020. Durkan and the governor of Washington state told reporters that U.S. officers sent to protect federal buildings in the city have left.
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference during the summer of 2020. Durkan and the governor of Washington state told reporters that U.S. officers sent to protect federal buildings in the city have left.
Credit: AP

Seattle reacts to Mayor Durkan's announcement she will not seek re-election in 2021

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday that she will not seek re-election to the city's top office in 2021.

Her exit leaves the mayor's office open for grabs after just one term.

In a video statement Monday, Mayor Durkan said that she had a choice to make: campaign for another term over 2021, or put all her energy into fighting the pandemic. She says she has opted to focus on responding to the pandemic.

"We know stopping the spread of the virus, protecting jobs and focusing on the economic recovery — especially for downtown — is going to take everything we’ve got. As Mayor approaching the last year of my term, that meant a choice. I could spend the next year campaigning to keep this job or focus all my energy on doing the job. There was only one right choice for our city: doing the job. I have decided not to run for reelection because Seattle, we still have some tough months ahead," Durkan said.

A video sent to supporters, Durkan says hat "2020 changed everything" and touts her achievements, such as progress toward free college and affordable housing, as well as standing "strong against the Trump administration." The statement notes her work done during the pandemic, including finding more PPE for frontline workers; free Covid-19 testing; relief for small businesses and workers; and a moratorium on evictions.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be a focus for the city of Seattle, it is not the only challenge Durkan has faced during her time as mayor. At times, there has been a divide between the mayor and the Council. They been at odds over high profile issues, such as the Council's effort to implement a head tax.

Durkan has been Seattle's top official as protests for racial justice swept the city in recent months. Many of those protests targeted city officials from council members to the former police chief. Durkan's home (which is legally intended to be kept secret due to her time as a U.S. attorney) was also a target of demonstrations. The mayor has reported that the sidewalks in front of her home have ben tagged with messages calling her a Nazi, using homophobic taunts, offensive images of genitalia, and even threats to her life.

Durkan has also been criticized from multiple sides for her handling of the CHOP in Capitol Hill — an area of protest that resulted in peaceful demonstrations, controversial crowd control tactics, the abandonment of a police station, and fatal shootings.

Reactions to Durkan's announcement

Former Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess says the form that political conflict now takes has made it difficult to for elected officials to govern.

“The politics of personal destruction tends to lead the way; the name calling the verbal assaults, the threats of violence," Burgess said. "So in that sense, I was not surprised, but disappointed because I believe in her and I think she is a good leader for our city.”

Seattle political consultant Heather Weiner often works with candidates to Durkan’s political left. She thinks that’s where Seattle politics are headed. She suspects that Durkan may have realized it was time to step aside for practical reasons.

“And I'm guessing that her consultants are telling her that her polling is not looking great," Weiner said. "And that she needs to get out of the way and open up a space for another candidate who will have enough time to raise money.”

While three other candidates have told the city they intend to run, so far, Weiner expects more candidates could announce as early as this week.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee thanked Durkan for her service, shortly after her announcement Monday morning.

“The Durkan administration has led the way on investments in affordable housing, expanded high quality pre-school and pioneered the Seattle Promise program to provide free college to thousands of public high school students. She has been a great partner with the state through the Covid-19 pandemic through expanded testing and economic help for restaurants and small businesses," Inslee said in a statement.

“Mayor Durkan cares deeply for Seattle and her service and dedication will have a lasting legacy. I wish her the very best in whatever challenges she takes on next and l look forward to our continued partnership over the coming year."

Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda also thanked Durkan for her service, despite the fact the two Seattle politicians often found themselves on the opposite sides of issues and policies. She says, however they were "able to find common ground to work on critical issues, and the community, workers and small businesses in this City are better for it."

"Mayor Durkan has especially shown leadership for our City’s youth, low-income workers, and on emerging needs through her work on the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), the Families and Education, Preschool, Promise (FEPP) levy and Seattle Promise, and Transportation Network Companies (TNC) legislation," Mosqueda said.

“This year has been filled with turmoil -- a public health crisis, racial reckoning, and economic downturn. Anyone who serves in public office, in particular, through 2020, is to be commended and I appreciate her years of service, and wish her luck in the next endeavor.”