SEATTLE - Jenny Durkan, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, formally launched her candidacy for Seattle mayor on Friday.
Durkan's roll out included big name supporters such as former Gov. Christine Gregoire standing by her side, along with other past and present elected officials, including current Seattle Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.
The 58-year-old talked about her Seattle roots, growing up in the city and later becoming the first openly gay U.S. attorney in the country.
"I was honored to break that barrier, but it’s no surprise it happened here in this great city," Durkan said.
Durkan listed the top three challenges facing the city as police reform and accountability, homelessness and housing affordability.
As U.S. attorney, Durkan helped negotiate the current consent decree that forced changes at the Seattle Police Department. She said as mayor she hopes to "sign the order that takes it away and says we don't need it any more."
On the topic of homelessness, Durkan didn't give specifics but said the current approach is not working to move enough people from tents to homes.
“I think what we first have to do is not think of homelessness as a monolithic issue that we can solve with one solution," said Durkan when pressed for details on her approach.
"We have to take different parts of those population and give them the services they need," she said.
During her prepared remarks, Durkan also referenced the importance of helping the business community and small business owners, as well as elderly homeowners struggling to pay their property taxes.
"We as government now have an obligation to make sure that before we ask for another penny, we’re using the money wisely.
She gave a careful answer when asked about the city's income tax proposal on high-earners.
"It’s probably not constitutional. It will be subject to legal challenges for a long period of time, and it’s not the solution we need now," Durkan said, while also calling for overall changes to the state's regressive tax system.
Durkan emerged Friday as the establishment candidate and a front runner in an increasingly crowded race. She joked when asked how she stands apart the growing number of candidates entering the race.
"Look, we’ve got 12, maybe there will be 14… you’re not even as big as a Durkan Thanksgiving, and I always find food."
“I’ll tell you what I have -- and they can say the case of what they have -- I’m a leader. I’m a proven leader. And my style for decades has been, dive in on the toughest problems, roll up your sleeves, bring people together, listen to everyone, but then, make decisions and find solutions."
While she's running for office for the first time, Durkan has long been a fixture in Democratic politics in Washington state.
She was known as a formidable litigator before being picked in the first wave of President Barack Obama's U.S. attorney appointments. She was on the team that successfully represented the state Democratic Party when Republicans challenged the results of the 2004 gubernatorial election, which Chris Gregoire won after two recounts.
Durkan and the Justice Department pushed Seattle into a settlement that overhauled the police department's training, procedures and record-keeping, all aimed at reducing unnecessary uses of force and curbing biased policing.
In addition to Durkan, state Representative Jessyn Farrell also announced on Friday.
Other high-profile candidates in the race include former Mayor Mike McGinn, community activist Nikkita Oliver, urban planner Cary Moon, and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa.
The filing deadline is May 19. A consultant for Seattle Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez says she's still "weighing the opportunity."
Incumbent Mayor Ed Murray was expected to easily win re-election, but he announced this week he wouldn't run again following allegations by four men that he sexually abused them as teens. Murray has vehemently denied those claims.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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