After 89 years, a woman will take charge of City Hall

Jenny Durkan

Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan seen at a primary election night party in Seattle.

For the first time in 89 years, Seattle will have a female mayor. It will only be the second time in this progressive city’s history since Bertha Knight Landes' term in the 1920s. Who that person will be, however, is far from clear. 

With 20 percent of the ballots returned, former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan was leading by a large margin — over 15 percentage points — according to early results. She will compete in the Nov. 7 general election, but her competition will not be decided for at least a few more days. 

Urban planner Cary Moon trailed Durkan in second place, buoyed in part by an endorsement from The Stranger newspaper. Attorney, activist Nikkita Oliver is close behind her, trailing by 1,500 votes. And former State Rep. Jessyn Farrell took fourth place with 12 percent of the vote.

State Sen. Bob Hasegawa and former Mayor Mike McGinn were in a distant fifth and sixth place respectively and appear to be out of contention.

In the race for Seattle City Council, incumbent Lorena González waltzed into the general election for position 9, likely joined by Pat Murakami. For position 8, Teresa Mosqueda is well positioned to advance, with Jon Grant trailing in second and Sara Nelson a close third. 

Meanwhile, Proposition 1, a sales tax for arts programming, was failing by 10 percentage points.

Late Tuesday, the official King County turnout estimate was 38 percent, although a spokesperson said the pace looked to be 36 percent. Regardless, that means thousands of ballots are yet to be counted. In past elections, late ballots have favored the liberal.

Oliver and Moon can both be called darlings of the left, making any guesses for the next couple days a stretch. Oliver stepped up her campaign in the final days, taking out a full-page ad in the Seattle Times. But in a recent tweet, Stranger publisher Tim Keck said his paper's endorsement page had record high viewership, an advantage for Moon. 

In a Pioneer Square bar, supporters of Durkan were surprised the tallies came in as early as they did, but started whooping and cheering as it became clear she was far ahead of her competition. 

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said former-Governor Chris Gregoire immediately after they were released. 

To chants of “Jenny, Jenny,” Durkan’s victory speech was perfectly in line with her image as an Obama Democrat and counter to President Donald Trump. “It’s like my boss used to say,” she said, referring to her years as U.S. Attorney under Obama. “Are you fired up and ready to go?"

Moon's party took place at the Cyclops, which she said has been her favorite Seattle bar since the 1980s, when it was in a different spot. The walls of the Belltown institution are hung with paintings of celebrities like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles — alongside Mickey Mouse and Dracula.

Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon on primary election with supporters Credit: Nick Turner for Crosscut

Before the results arrived at Moon’s Belltown party, the candidate was optimistic, but still hedging slightly, telling supporters she would keep working for Seattle no matter the results. 

But those results were so good for the first-time candidate that supporters exploded in cheers when her second place standing was announced. “I am ready to be mayor and I’m excited because I know what we need to do in this city, and I’m ready to give my 100 percent effort to doing it as mayor,” she said in an interview. However, she also acknowledged that the results could change in the coming days. "And I’m also ready to collaborate with Nikkita … if she gets ahead of me.”

No campaign has generated as much fervor as Oliver's, which has drawn national attention, making her a social media sensation. On Tuesday, hundreds of supporters crowded into Washington Hall in the Central District. "I've seen her care for the community for a really long time," said Mira Kraft, 27, who works in public relations. "She has the best interest of Seattle in her heart and the ability to bring that to fruition.”

Nikkita Oliver addresses a crowd of supporters at Washington Hall. Credit: Karen Ducey for Crosscut

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd, Oliver gave what sounded like a concession speech, even though she is still very much in the race. "We have nothing to mourn, we have everything to celebrate," she said to cheers and applause. Oliver, who sang and then recited a poem to her supporters, encouraged those gathered to remain engaged, no matter the numbers. "The only reason they're talking about the things they're talking about now is because we got in the election in the first place," Oliver said defiantly. "I promise you change has come.”

Former Rep. Farrell is still in the race, but barely, a fact she noted. "The upshot is that we are in fourth place, a close fourth place, but we are in fourth place. That's why we were busy campaigning until eight o'clock tonight going after every single ballot that is out there," said Farrell. "We are going to have to sit tight over the next few days and see what happens."

For former Mayor Mike McGinn and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa, their campaigns are all but finished. At Plum Bistro on Capitol Hill, McGinn told the room he was, “disappointed in the results,” adding his campaign was "highly speculative. I’m glad I did it, glad I pushed the agenda on income taxes and fair taxes.”

Hasegawa, ever optimistic, stood on porch of his Beacon Hill home and addressed supporters as the initial election results came in. “We showed them we can fight without big money,” he said. He thanked everyone involved in the campaign, saying “Thanks for uplifting my life.”

King County Elections will update results at 4:30 p.m. daily. The margins for second place in the mayor's race and the City Council Position 8 race mean each of those releases will be highly significant and the drama could play out for at least several days to come.

Lilly Fowler, Lizz Giordano, Nick Turner, Chetanya Robinson and Knute Berger contributed to this report.


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.