Cary Moon. Photo by Alex Garland.

Cary Moon Agrees to Nikkita Oliver-Moderated Forum; Jenny Durkan ‘Happy to Consider’ It

The unorthodox forum is a calculated risk for both candidates, but in very different ways.

Candidate Cary Moon, who took second place in the August mayoral primary, says she will attend a Peoples Party forum moderated by former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver. First-place primary winner Jenny Durkan declined to specify whether she will attend the forum; her campaign says only that they’re “happy to consider” attending if and when they receive a formal invitation from the Peoples Party.

Oliver announced the forum when she conceded on Tuesday that she didn’t have the votes to advance to the general election. Moon says she doesn’t know of any formal invitation being sent to her own campaign. The forum has not yet been scheduled, according to Oliver.

The forum is a calculated risk for both candidates. Both have earned some ire from the young leftists who make up the core of the Peoples Party and who could serve as a decisive voting bloc in November.

Durkan’s credentials and allies make her a natural enemy to the Peoples Party. She made a name for herself litigating for the state Democratic party and then as an Obama appointee as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. Both big business and big labor support her campaign. She has raised nearly half a million dollars, and a PAC called People for Jenny Durkan has spent another $116,684 supporting her.

In short, Durkan is the choice of the Seattle political establishment, the very thing that the Peoples Party exists to disrupt. Oliver supporters and members of the Peoples Party are unlikely to vote for Durkan in the general election no matter what happens, so she has little incentive to attend the debate as a way of persuading new voters. On the other hand, refusing the debate would look weak.

We asked the Durkan campaign whether she will participate in the forum. They responded:

“We have not yet received an invitation from the People’s Party regarding a debate, but we will be happy to consider if we do receive one. Jenny has already agreed to more than a dozen forums and debates this fall to discuss both her decades of work on civil rights, criminal justice reform, and police accountability, and her vision to address the urgent challenges our city faces like affordability, inequality, and homelessness.”

Moon’s relationship to the Peoples Party is trickier than Durkan’s. On the one hand, she’s a natural ally to the Peoples Party by virtue of not being Jenny Durkan, and in order to compete against Durkan in the general, Moon will need the support of the Peoples Party base. On the other hand, Moon is a rich white lady who, after a self-funded campaign, beat Oliver out of the general election by just over a thousand votes. That upset many of the young leftist voters whom Moon needs to show up and vote for her instead of staying home. The debate could be her chance to begin winning them over, but she’ll have her work cut out for her.

Oliver has said that neither she nor the Peoples Party expect to endorse either candidate in the general election. “I think it’s very notable,” she said after conceding, “that the two candidates in the general election are two wealthy white women who regularly in forums would say things like, ‘What Nikkita said, and…’”

An earlier version of this post inaccurately stated that the forum will be on September 23, which is actually the date of the Peoples Party general assembly.

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