Out Lesbian Jenny Durkan Tops Seattle Mayoral Primary

Jenny Durkan with President Obama
Jenny Durkan

Votes are still being counted in the Seattle mayoral primary, but Jenny Durkan is maintaining a strong lead, meaning she’ll definitely be on the ballot in November, with a shot at becoming the city’s first lesbian mayor and its first woman mayor since the 1920s.

The top two candidates in the nonpartisan primary, held Tuesday, advance to the November 7 general election. As of Wednesday afternoon, Durkan, a former federal prosecutor, led with 32 percent of the vote, Seattle TV station KIRO reports. Two other women, urban planner Cary Moon and attorney Nikkita Oliver, were in a close race for second place, with percentages in the teens. There were 21 candidates in the race.

Because voters in the city election mail in their ballots or turn them in at drop-off boxes, it takes several days to arrive at a final count, the station notes. The King County Election Commission will post interim results online every weekday until August 15, when the final result will be certified.

The winner of the November election will succeed Ed Murray, the first openly gay man to be Seattle’s mayor. Murray, a former state legislator who was elected mayor in 2013, decided against seeking a second term amid allegations that he had sexually abused young men, including his onetime foster son, years ago. Murray has denied committing such abuse. One of the men had sued him but recently withdrew the suit; after the withdawal, Murray considered mounting a write-in campaign but ultimately decided not to do so and endorsed Durkan instead.

The main issues in the city include a lack of affordable housing, a rise in the homeless population, and the imposition of a municipal income tax. At a victory rally Tuesday night, Durkan said she believes voters have confidence in her ability to lead Seattle.

Voters “want change and they want to move forward,” Durkan said at the rally, according to The Seattle Times. The city’s progressive values, she added, are “a rebuke to what Donald Trump stands for.”

Durkan, now 59, was the nation’s first out gay or lesbian U.S. attorney when President Obama appointed her to that position for the western district of Washington State in 2009. She held the post until 2014.

Victory Fund, which has endorsed Durkan, issued a celebratory statement. “Seattle voters made history in selecting Jenny from a crowded field of challengers — and we are confident she will become the first lesbian mayor of Seattle come November,” said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Victory Fund president and CEO. “As the first openly LGBTQ U.S. attorney in history, Jenny championed police and criminal justice reform, promoted drug and mental health courts to address unnecessary incarceration, and worked to prevent employment and housing discrimination. Jenny is a values-driven leader who has shattered lavender ceilings before, and we will work tirelessly to ensure she shatters another in November.”

Durkan’s other endorsers include the Service Employees International Union, which is the city’s largest labor union, as well as numerous environmental advocates, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and The Seattle Times.

The last woman to be Seattle’s mayor was Bertha Knight Landes, who was elected in 1926 and served two years. She was the first woman mayor of a major U.S. city. Murray’s election made Seattle the largest city with an openly gay man as mayor; Houston, with Annise Parker, was the largest one to elect an out lesbian mayor.

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