By Lisa Baumann / Associated Press
SEATTLE — In a Seattle mayoral race that will give the booming liberal city its first female mayor since the 1920s former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has taken a strong early lead.
Ninety-one years after Seattle elected Bertha Knight Landes as mayor, early returns Tuesday showed Durkan had captured more than a 20-point lead with nearly 61 percent of the first votes tallied in the all-mail election. Urban planner Cary Moon tallied just over 39 percent of the vote.
“Now I know there’s a lot of votes left to be counted,” Durkan told supporters. “But I have to tell ya we’re feeling really, really good about where we are.”
She also had a message for the president of the United States whose policies she vocally opposed during her campaign: “Can I just say, Donald Trump, keep your hands off Seattle.”
Ballot counting will continue over the next several days.
Voters were choosing between Durkan, 59, or Moon, 54, or to lead this city dealing with the benefits and problems of an economy booming for some more than others as e-commerce giant Amazon expands.
“We are up against tough odds,” Moon said in a statement Tuesday night. “Campaign spending for our opponent broke city election records, outspending us by more than 3:1. The Chamber of Commerce funneled hundreds of thousands on behalf of Comcast, CenturyLink, AT&T, Amazon and others into a no-limit PAC for our opponent. But Seattle late voters may surprise everyone. We believe the ballot counts will swing in our direction over time, and we’re not out of the race yet.”
The two-woman matchup came after former Mayor Ed Murray dropped his re-election efforts amid accusations of sexual abuse by multiple men. Murray had been expected to easily win re-election after pushing through increases to the city’s minimum wage and emerging as a vocal opponent to President Donald Trump, whom Seattle voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2016. Murray, who has denied the allegations, resigned in September after a fifth accuser came forward.
“I feel like I take into account who the candidate is, regardless of male or female, but this year for me at least, it feels a little special to have a choice between two women and to sort of elevate the visibility of viable female candidates. I have a small tinge of excitement about that, for sure,” said Seattle voter Michelle Solis.
The race between Durkan and Moon has centered on how the city will respond to changes largely brought by Amazon, which employs about 40,000 people in Seattle. Housing prices have skyrocketed amid constant complaints about traffic and worries that the poor and middle class are being priced out.
Durkan, backed by the city’s business and labor establishment, has touted her managerial experience as a prosecutor. Moon, meanwhile, who formerly managed her family’s manufacturing business, has stressed that she’s not a politician and has focused on her 20 years of activism on transit, waterfront and other city issues.
The race has attracted big money. Although it’s Durkan’s first run for office, the well-connected player in city and state Democratic circles has raised nearly $1 million. An independent-expenditure committee working on Durkan’s behalf has raised nearly $847,000 to pump into election efforts.
Moon’s donations have topped $355,000 with over $176,000 coming from her private bank account. An independent-expenditure group for Moon raised over $27,000.
Because Murray resigned, the winner of the election will take office as soon as the election is certified in late November, instead of January.
Associated Press reporter Manuel Valdes contributed to this story.