Seattle will elect a woman as its mayor for the first time since the legendary days of Bertha Knight Landes nearly a century ago.
In 1926 Bertha became the first female mayor of any major U.S. city. Famous for her courageous battles to eliminate graft and corruption, Big Bertha’s main targets were outlaw bootleggers, including Seattle’s Chief of Police!
Bertha really shook things up for a while…
Her election was a paradigm shift away from the Northwest-style “good old boys” network that controlled the city for most of its history. That patriarchal cabal included the Yesler and Denny clans. By comparison, today’s local wealthy elite represent not just the wealthy of Seattle, but also some of the richest people in the world: Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Jeff Bezos.
This year’s election for Seattle mayor drew 21 candidates into the ring. Everyone seemed to jump in at the last minute after Ed Murray’s alleged sex scandal caused him to withdraw from the race. This political free-for-all took place at a time when most Seattleites were leaning to the left in the face of increasing right-wing rhetoric coming from Washington, D.C. Led by People’s Party candidate Nikkita Oliver and a long list of progressives, democratic socialists and independents, this year’s candidates focused a spotlight on some of the economic, environmental and social inequities currently plaguing the Emerald City.
Seattle residents know these issues very well because they face them every day, including mass homelessness and the resulting economic refugee camps, extreme gentrification, racial/economic bias, corporate greed and political apathy.
Primary election winners Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan continue to push to the left on most of these social and economic issues, but there is a discernible difference between the two candidates. I noted some of these obvious differences during their participation at KEXP’s mayoral candidates forum.
Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan represents a typical neoliberal style of politics. These candidates say they feel empathy for you while they’re busy trying to manipulate the electorate into letting them run the entire show. It’s an old-school attitude that probably works well in the courtroom and corporate boardroom but perhaps not in the mayor’s office, where political alliances are more nuanced and subtle. In city politics, authority and true power comes from a politician’s support among the voters and community organizations, not from the bankrolls of their powerful and wealthy friends.
Let’s face it: Jenny Durkan is a member of the Seattle establishment. I applaud her outspoken opposition to some of the repressive policies promoted by the Trump regime, but she is not running a revolutionary campaign. I’m aware of Durkan’s track record as an attorney and public servant, but I believe that Cary Moon is much more connected to the struggles of working class families.
It isn’t really a very scientific analysis of Durkan’s personal character, but the last concert she saw in Seattle was The Eagles. Apparently she is the “easy listening” candidate for folks who are a bit nervous about democratic socialism and grassroots campaigns for economic justice.
In contrast to Durkan’s constrained and uptight delivery, Cary Moon seems like someone you could invite to see a local punk rock band. Her manner was relaxed and casual but she’s also passionate about some of the issues that tend to get ignored by Seattle government and media. The Chamber of Commerce and the tourism bureau won’t tell you about most of these social and economic problems. There has always been a tendency to sweep all of this nasty stuff under the rug and hide it from visitors to the city.
We have another chance to shake up the political establishment with the election of a woman as mayor of Seattle. I hope voters are willing to take a chance on a new face in city politics. We need political leaders who have not lost touch with the communities they serve. I think Cary Moon will best represent the average resident of our city.
A previous version of this was published in the Capitol Hill Times.