With tens of thousands of votes still up for grabs in Tuesday’s election, Jenny Durkan is portraying herself as the more capable choice, while Cary Moon calls herself the more progressive candidate.
Heading into the crucial last weekend of Seattle’s mayoral race, Jenny Durkan, in a lawyerly show of force, surrounded herself with firefighters, Teamsters and political leaders at a news conference to deliver her “closing arguments” for Tuesday’s election.
Cary Moon announced she would host a live Facebook video session to answer “burning questions” from voters — an event in keeping with her conversational campaign.
With 14 percent of Seattle ballots returned and ready for counting as of noon Friday, the candidates each knew that a couple of hundred thousand potential votes were still up for grabs — some of them in battleground neighborhoods such as the Central District, Beacon Hill, Lake City and Delridge, where neither Durkan nor Moon dominated in August.
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Ballots for Tuesday’s election must be postmarked (you’ll need a stamp on the envelope) or placed in an official county elections-office dropbox (no stamp needed) by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
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Since prevailing in the city’s 21-candidate primary with about 28 percent of the vote, Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, has been trying to pad her lead by portraying herself as the more experienced and capable choice between two progressive candidates.
2017 Seattle mayoral race
She’s sought to shake off the resignation of endorser Ed Murray as mayor in September, amid allegations he sexually abused children decades ago.
Having narrowly won second place in August, Moon, an urbanist and waterfront activist, has been wooing people who voted for candidates other than Durkan in the primary by stressing social and racial justice and by highlighting her rival’s corporate backers.
With Durkan holding advantages in advertising money and organizational muscle, Moon’s challenge has been to compete for voter enthusiasm, which could decide the election.
Building on primary win
Durkan, 59, won 613 of 981 voting precincts in the primary, cleaning up in affluent water-view neighborhoods such as Laurelhurst, Broadview, Madison Park, Queen Anne, Magnolia and North Admiral. Turnout was high in those strongholds, which Durkan can probably count on to show up for her again.
Her task has been to augment her base with people who might not have supported her or voted at all in the primary but who want a mayor with more conventional credentials.
That likely has meant targeting older voters in neighborhoods where she could have performed better and where Moon was relatively weak, such as South Seattle and West Seattle precincts carried by populist candidate Nikkita Oliver and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa, said Michael Charles, who helped run Hasegawa’s primary campaign.
“Places where she didn’t do fantastic before but where there are voters to be won,” Charles said. “I think older folks tend to want a more-experienced candidate and tend to see her appointment as U.S. attorney as very affirming of her ability.”
King County Elections expects about 50 percent turnout in Seattle, meaning more than 115,000 votes are needed to win. In the primary, Durkan received 51,529 votes.
Her volunteers doorbelled West Seattle last weekend and South Seattle on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of individuals who are excited and stepping up,” including workers from some of the dozen-plus unions backing the candidate, said Sandeep Kaushik, a Durkan campaign consultant.
Durkan volunteers since June have contacted more than 83,000 voters and knocked on 28,000 doors during more than 1,000 shifts, and the candidate has taken three dozen neighborhood tours, according to the campaign.
Some volunteers were on hand Thursday night in a bare Eastlake office for a phone-banking push, including a group of union ironworkers who made calls in Spanish.
Also on hand was Kari Tupper, whom Durkan represented decades ago when Tupper — and later, other women — accused U.S. Sen. Brock Adams of sexual assault.
When Tupper phones voters for Durkan, “What resonates most with them is that I’ve known her for years,” she said. “I tell them she’s the smartest person I know.”
Rose Howell-Clark sees similarities between Durkan and Hillary Clinton, for whose presidential campaign she also volunteered. The 20-year-old North Seattle College student said her mothers recommended she check out Durkan, marveling that the country’s first openly gay U.S. attorney might not be liberal enough for Seattle.
Like Clinton, Durkan is “considered the more centrist candidate,” Howell-Clark said, adding, “I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.”
Howell-Clark appreciates Durkan talking about the opioid crisis, having lost a friend to it. While doorbelling, she touts the candidate’s résumé and tries to connect with voters.
“People are way more likely to vote having had a personal interaction,” she said.
Dollars and endorsements are also boosting Durkan’s message. Raising nearly $1 million from about 4,000 donors has allowed her to crush Moon in spending on television ads, including a positive piece vowing immediate action to build tiny houses for the homeless and a negative spot slamming Moon as an “untested novice” who lost her battle against the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel.
Durkan’s major vulnerability has been the perception of her as the establishment candidate.
An independent committee bankrolled by business groups and unions has spent more than $700,000 marketing Durkan to voters. Amazon, Vulcan and trade organizations for landlords and hotel owners gave hundreds of thousands to a group backing the effort.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona endorsed Durkan last week, while a letter of support from a group of community leaders published recently in the South Seattle Emerald showed her campaign making inroads, Charles said.
Crafting a coalition
Moon, 54, made her overall strategy clear immediately after the primary, seeking to isolate Durkan from the rest of the field by describing herself as “one of the five leading candidates who was not backed by big corporations and City Hall insiders.”
John Wyble, who helped former Mayor Mike McGinn during his run in the primary, penned a piece in August saying Moon could win by forging an anti-Durkan coalition of voters seeking change. And Moon has stuck with that plan, said spokeswoman Heather Weiner.
“We’re getting out the vote of younger people who didn’t vote in the primary and people who voted in the primary for other progressive candidates,” she said, mentioning Oliver, Hasegawa, McGinn and former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell.
In part, that has meant peppering voters with glossy mailers while aiming Facebook ads at ZIP codes with more young voters and people of color, Weiner said.
There are reasons for optimism in the Moon campaign, where volunteers have completed more than 500 get-out-the-vote shifts, according to Weiner. The candidate’s best neighborhoods in the primary included Wallingford, Fremont and Ballard.
Ian Calvert, 21, said many of the voters he meets while doorbelling agree with Moon that Seattle should build more bus lanes and should treat homeless people with more compassion by shutting down the city’s evictions of homeless camps.
“Apartment buildings are great for us,” Calvert said, making calls in a brick-accented Pioneer Square loft. “People like Cary’s ideas about density and housing. Younger people, too … They’re worried about being able to afford to live in Seattle.”
Supermarket workers could be important for Moon. UFCW 21 political director Joe Mizrahi says they’re keenly aware of the election and whom their union has endorsed.
He says nearly all workers contacted plan to vote. Mizrahi tells them Moon didn’t hesitate to sign a letter raising concerns about the expansion of a nonunion chain.
“Our members are really passionate about that right now,” said Mizrahi, whose union represents thousands of Seattle voters.
Both candidates have gone somewhat negative in recent weeks, trading election-law complaints and swapping barbs during debates. Devin Glaser, a public-broadband advocate who supports Moon, says voters are paying attention to his cause.
Comcast and CenturyLink have together donated more than $50,000 to a business group supporting the independent committee backing Durkan. And Kaushik, the Durkan consultant who previously worked for Ed Murray, has lobbied for Comcast.
Durkan was the only major primary candidate noncommital about public broadband, noted Glaser, who Thursday night helped light up City Hall with the words, “Comcast’s City Hall.” Moon supports the idea. “This feels like a clear choice,” Glaser said.
There also are reasons for frustration among Moon supporters. McGinn endorsed her, but his meek primary showing demonstrated how much his influence has waned.
Hasegawa and Farrell endorsed neither candidate. Oliver made clear she would vote for Moon but stopped short of urging her Peoples Party movement to mobilize.
Moon’s campaign has wanted to get “the Peoples Party contingent to coalesce around her,” Charles said, calling the result inconclusive.
“She was hoping to have that same enthusiasm that showed up for Nikkita show up for her,” he said. “The ground game. The social-media excitement.”
Meanwhile, the candidate’s decision to spend more than $175,000 of her own money in the race has somewhat blunted her criticism of Durkan as the out-of-touch candidate.
Moon still could rout Durkan among Oliver supporters, as she promises to work with activists, share power across race and class at City Hall and oppose King County’s new youth jail. Weiner says many voters are wondering, “Who can I trust to represent my values?”
“That’s where Cary wins,” the spokeswoman said. “Because she’s authentic. Because she says what she thinks. Because she’s been transparent.”
Watching from the sidelines, Charles is unsure what the election’s outcome will be.
“She’s fighting an uphill battle,” he said, referring to Moon. “But that doesn’t mean she can’t win.”