This post was originally published at 11:33 a.m.
Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday that she will not run for re-election in 2021. In a video announcing her decision, Durkan said she made the call to be a one-term mayor because she wanted to focus her last year in office on helping the city through the pandemic and not running for re-election.
Durkan's last year has been plagued with controversy. Voters' opinion of Durkan tanked this year. This summer marked a 31-point drop in her net-favorability margin over the course of two years. A recall effort against her made it to the Washington State Supreme Court before Durkan won an appeal, but the petition to recall her from office received over 43,000 signatures.
During the summer, Durkan made it clear that she and then-Seattle Police Department Chief Carmen Best wouldn't resign. She joked that the two had "debated having a Thelma and Louise moment," referring to the 1991 move that ends with two women on the run from the police driving over a cliff and, presumably, dying in a fiery crash. It was a weird comment to make at the time, and, now, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
About two months after the Thelma and Louise comment, Best resigned. When I implied that the Thelma and Louise comparison seemed to be playing out, with Best signing off and hurling herself willingly off the cliff, Durkan emailed me just this link about "alternative endings." I don't think becoming a one-term mayor was the alternative ending Durkan was looking for.
Currently, the only serious 2021 mayoral candidate is Lance Randall, SEED Seattle’s Director of Economic Development and Interim Executive Director. I bet the 2021 race is about to fill up real quick.
I asked some Seattle politicos their thoughts on the announcement, who'd they like to see run, and, in the case of some former candidates, whether they'd run themselves.
Local political consultant Heather Weiner wasn't surprised about the Mayor's announcement because Durkan "obviously resented her job." The only time Durkan seemed to enjoy being mayor, Weiner said, was when she was standing firm against Trump—not when she was making policy decisions or interacting with constituents. Now that Trump is out, Durkan "no longer has that as a foil," Weiner said. "I wonder if she would have stuck around if Trump—god forbid—would have won."
Weiner wants to see a person of color and someone "who is listening to the working people of Seattle and not the big corporate money interests who tried and failed to buy city council last year" become mayor. Anyone serious about running for mayor, in Weiner's opinion, will need to announce their campaign within the next month.
Cary Moon, the urban planner who ran against Durkan in 2017, isn't running. She is, however, "very excited about a visionary, fearless, far-left candidate" and she vows to "do anything I can to help them win." She went more in-depth on the subject in a recent op-ed for PubliCola.
Shaun Scott, the former District 4 city council candidate, wouldn't say whether he was considering running:
"Durkan not seeking re-election is a victory that belongs to the organizers, activists, and demonstrators who forged a new civil rights movement in Seattle this summer. The fact that the Human Rights Commission—created by the Mayor’s office in 1963 in response to protests against housing discrimination—asked Durkan to step down says all we need to know about her tenure as mayor. In Durkan’s absence, I hope candidates emerge in both the Mayor and City Council races who can unite the city behind a vision for shared economic prosperity and racial justice in 2021."
When I asked if they had thoughts about Durkan's resignation, any political plans for 2021, and ideas about who'd they want to run for the office, former legislative candidate Sherae Lascelles texted back: "Many. A few. Absolutely."
Leah Solomon, a representative with the Fire the Mayor recall effort against Durkan said the campaign was "obviously THRILLED by the news of this victory for Seattle." Solomon said she believed the recall effort (which, according to Fire the Mayor, cost Durkan $240,000) played a part in Durkan's decision "to release us from her control."
A spokesperson from King County Equity Now said, "We acknowledge [Durkan's] decision not to run as a clear, overwhelming referendum by Seattlites—and particularly Black Seattlites—that the old normal is no longer acceptable. Leadership must be pro-Black, visionary, representative and accountable to the people—not the Chamber.
Many Seattleites have thrown around Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda's name as a potential mayoral candidate. People like Council President Lorena Gonzalez as an option, too.
Sawant, meanwhile, didn't mince words in her statement today. "Mayor Jenny Durkan was elected with major backing from big business, including an unprecedented $350,000 check from Amazon alone," Sawant said. "She has served their interests well." Sawant ended with a call to action for "socialists, union members, and grassroots organizers" to run and to oppose the inevitable "big business and corporate Democrat" candidates.
The Chamber of Commerce, which spent around $1.8 million on the candidates it backed in last year's council election, hasn't backed any candidates yet. The rumor mill is churning about who they'll choose. A source speculated that King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski and Gordon McHenry Jr., the CEO and president of United Way of King County, could be on the chamber's shortlist.
When asked in an email about whether he'd consider running, Dembowski replied: "I would love to vote for my friend Teresa Mosqueda for Mayor in 2021. I truly hope she will run.” McHenry Jr. did not immediately return a request for comment.