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Jenny Durkan wins Seattle mayor's race over Cary Moon

Jenny Durkan is poised to become Seattle's first female mayor in 91 years.
Jenny Durkan speaks to supporters on election night after initial results were released.

Jenny Durkan won the race for Seattle mayor Tuesday in one of the most competitive mayoral races in recent Seattle political history.

"I am honored that the voters have given me this great opportunity, but with the honor comes a deep responsibility," Durkan said in a statement Wednesday. "The hard work of delivering progress starts today. Our city will - and must - come together around the solutions to address the urgent issues facing our city from homelessness to affordability to addressing systemic inequities."

The history-making race also produced the city’s first female mayor in 91 years.

Durkan held a big lead over Cary Moon after a second round of returns were released Wednesday, earning 60.39 percent of the vote (72,617 votes). Moon trailed with 39.61 percent (47,633 votes). About 120,000 votes were counted Wednesday afternoon.

Moon conceded Wednesday, saying in a statement that she offered her congratulations to Durkan.

"To our supporters who may feel disappointed, I feel disappointed too," Moon said. "But I will not let the future of our city be sunk by status quo thinking and politics as usual. There is too much at stake."

The Mayor-elect will have to transition into office on a much faster timeline compared to past mayors, following former Mayor Murray's resignation in September.

Durkan will be sworn in once results are certified November 28, meaning she has just weeks to get her office in order.

“We’ll have a team in place, but we’re not going to try to do it all at once," Durkan said. "We will have a transition that is orderly, that makes sense, and it’s not just going to be change for change sake. We’re going to make sure as we make these changes, they’re all about one thing—and that is making progress on these really tough issues and seizing the opportunities.”

While a first-time candidate, Durkan served as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington under President Barack Obama. In that role, Durkan helped negotiate the current consent decree that forced ongoing reforms at the Seattle Police Department.

The Seattle native, a graduate of Notre Dame and UW Law School, earned a reputation as a formidable litigator before being picked in the first wave of Obama's U.S. attorney appointments.

The Seattle native has also long been a fixture in state Democratic politics, successfully represented the state Democratic Party when Republicans challenged the results of the 2004 gubernatorial election, which Chris Gregoire won after two recounts.

Former Governor Gregoire and a long list of former and current statewide elected officials endorsed Durkan including Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee.

Durkan's late father, Martin Durkan, was a powerful state lawmaker and Democratic Party leader.

Urban planner Moon, also a first-time candidate may be best known locally for co-founding the People's Waterfront Coalition, a grassroots group that advocated against the viaduct replacement tunnel.

Moon last week said her success could depend on the turnout of younger voters, as well as more progressive voters who were split across a large field of primary candidates in August.

While former Mayor Mike McGinn endorsed Moon following his August primary loss, other top primary candidates who could have wielded influence including Nikkita Oliver, State Senator Bob Hasegawa and former State Representative Jessyn Farrell did not endorse ahead of the general election.

Oliver, the third-place finisher in August, running under the newly formed Seattle’s Peoples Party, performed especially well in South Seattle, energizing supporters around a platform against politics as usual.

Durkan, considered the establishment candidate in the race, built a coalition of support that largely resembled former Mayor Murray’s -- earning key endorsements from the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce’s political arm, as well as key labor groups including SEIU 775.

Moon criticized Durkan for corporate support, largely in the form of outside spending by the Chamber’s political action committee. However, Durkan points to a record-setting number of individual, direct donations to her campaign, reported at more than 4,100 individual contributions, raising more than $930,000.

Moon self-funded around half of her campaign, according to campaign finance reports, and raised an additional $178,000 from a little more than 1,000 individual contributors.

Both candidates prioritized homelessness and housing as top issues over the course of an election cycle that included more than 80 forums and an estimated 50 debates.

Durkan has called for building 1,000 micro-housing units within her first year if elected, as well as adding up to 100 emergency beds in each council district. Durkan has also called for a city-run rent voucher program, and said she wants to clear the current Seattle Housing Authority waiting list in her first weeks in office.

Another of her key campaign promises revolved around free college tuition in the form of two years of community-college tuition for all the city's public high school graduates.

The race for Seattle mayor took a dramatic turn in May when Mayor Ed Murray announced he would not seek re-election, facing a civil suit alleging sexual abuse in the 1980s.

Murray has denied all wrongdoing but stepped down from office in September, after a fifth accuser, a cousin of Murray, came forward with additional allegations.

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