Before addressing supporters at the Westin on Tuesday night, Jenny Durkan was introduced as, “the next mayor of the great city of Seattle.”
She didn’t go as far as claiming victory, saying merely that, “we are feeling really, really good about where we are.”
For all intents and purposes, she could have.
The former U.S. Attorney was poised to become the city’s first woman mayor since Bertha Knight Landes in the late 1920s, with more than 60 percent of the vote in the first round of returns to Cary Moon’s 39.
Moon did not concede Tuesday, saying in a statement that, “Seattle late voters may surprise everyone,” with a belief the race would tighten in the coming days. Moon’s campaign had said earlier in the day it would be happy to be within 10 points on Election Night. That figure is grounded in recent history, with then-incumbent Mike McGinn making up nearly that amount against eventual-winner Ed Murray four years ago.
After the following day’s results, Moon conceded the race.
Durkan will be the city’s 56th mayor, taking over for Tim Burgess at the end of the month. When asked if she expected to have such a sizable lead after the first returns, she said, “no idea what the numbers would be.”
“I was feeling a really good response on doors and phones, but I’ve been around the business long enough to know you can never predict,” she said.
In front of a raucous crowd of backers, volunteers, and a bevy of current and former local electeds, Durkan promised to lead a city where there is a place for everyone, regardless of race, gender, faith, or economic status.
“This campaign was never about any candidate,” she said. “It wasn’t about me or anyone else. It was about you. It was about Seattle and the future of Seattle. It’s a campaign about what Seattle will be like for that next generation and you have committed to making it the best Seattle ever.”
The 59-year-old Seattle native also noted the challenges the city — and now she — faces.
“Affordability is crushing Seattle. The homeless need a home. Our transportation system has challenges,” she said. “And you know what? I know we’re up to the task, and I know because of everyone in this room, everyone at home, in all the neighborhoods I’m walking, people in Seattle care. We will build a better city, we will build a better future, and we can be proud of it.”
The actual campaign itself wasn’t easy either.
“I will be honest, running for office is not for the meek,” Durkan said. “But my mom — Molly Durkan — she did not raise eight children to be meek. She raised us to be fierce and gentle.”
Those two words, she said, are what the city embodies.
“I knew that was Seattle, because we stand fiercely for what we believe in, but when we see our neighbors hurting we will also be gentle, because that’s the kind of future that we will be together for Seattle.”
Among Durkan’s well-wishers on Tuesday was Norm Rice, who said her, “depth of understanding” was part of what made him one of four former mayors to back her.
“I wanted to see somebody who can listen, who can really think about the future, and understand the balance that you have to have when you go through this whole process,” he said. “I think she comes with a wealth of experience, a breadth of experiences that really makes her fit to lead Seattle for the future.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Reuven Carlyle — who was tasked with announcing the initial results for the crowd — rattled off a long list of descriptors, calling Durkan, “the most qualified, capable, thoughtful, gracious, progressive, insightful, entrepreneurial, dignified, generous, [and] grateful,”
In addition to being the city’s first woman mayor in nine-plus decades, Durkan will also be Seattle’s first lesbian mayor, and just the second openly lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city (Salt Lake City’s Jackie Biskupski is the other).
But breaking a streak of more than 20 consecutive male mayors wasn’t lost on her.
“I think it’s terrific,” she said. “I think that it shows every little girl and every little boy out there they can be whatever they want. It’s about time we had another woman mayor of Seattle.”
And while the choice for voters was between two women, it will be Durkan that gets the honor.