“I don’t have a natural constituency,” says mayoral candidate Cary Moon. “My way of building a constituency is putting ideas out there.”
The second-place winner of the August primary election, Moon will face off against Jenny Durkan in November’s general election. Durkan, a former Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney, is the chosen candidate of both big business and big labor, and her hefty fundraising shows it. With overflowing coffers and a landslide victory in the primary, Durkan’s path forward is clear: run a traditional campaign in the mold of Ed Murray, and try to ride the wave of institutional support behind her without getting dragged down into any kind of controversy.
To that end, Durkan says that she’d be a mayor for all Seattleites. “For those who didn’t support me, I’ll work hard to earn your support,” she said in a statement following the primary. “I fundamentally believe that the next mayor has the moral challenge and deep responsibility to address inequities facing our city. I am committed to ensuring the marginalized and most vulnerable are part of the promise of Seattle. Seattle’s next mayor must be a leader who listens to all communities, brings people together, and gets things done. We have to come together to close the gaps in our city.”
By contrast, Moon has been running as a self-funded, self-identified City Hall outsider. “Sure, I could have gone and bought a boat or lived a fancy lifestyle,” she says, “but I’m committed to this city, and I’m investing my time and my money into doing whatever I can to build a better city.”
While Moon lost to Durkan in a landslide in the primary, a majority of the votes went to the other 19 candidates in the race. If Moon can unite that #JennyOneButDurkan vote in the general election, she can win. “The fact that we had an unprecedented turnout, and 70 percent of voters were for one of the more progressive candidates, the five of us to the left of Jenny Durkan, is a real sign that voters have had enough with big money and the political establishment running this city in the wrong direction, and they’re ready for change,” says Moon. A spokesperson for Durkan responded, saying, “It’s disappointing that Cary Moon is already engaging in divisive attacks. This is a big job and Seattle voters deserve a leader who can bring people together.”
Moon aims to unite a leftish, populist coalition against Seattle’s elites. “Given that we didn’t establish a strong ground game in the primary for a bunch of reasons”—21 candidates, lack of name recognition, and her lack of constituents, she specifies—“we have to put a lot of work into building out the structure. We have to do that really quickly” by organizing young leftists, she says. “The Seattle establishment way of running politics,” she says, is “a fairly small group of people that are fairly exclusive. I think young people are ready to reject that.”
But in the minds of young Seattle voters, is a vote for Moon a vote against the status quo, or simply a vote for a lesser, co-opting evil? By running in the primary and winning second place, narrowly beating Nikkita Oliver in the process, Moon alienated many of the young leftists she’ll need to show up in November. “I think people are going to realize there’s a very, very broad gap between me and my opponent,” Moon says. “And I think the commitment to sharing power across race, class, gender, and age is something people need to see me do. I acknowledge that. It’s easy to say you’re going to do the most wonderful thing, but they want to watch and see me do it. So I respect that, and I’m ready to be accountable for the promises I make to the community.”
What can Moon say or do to win over Peoples Party supporters who think that she should have “taken a back seat” by dropping out of the race to push Oliver through? How can she demonstrate her commitment to sharing power?
“There are three things Cary Moon must do and is doing,” says Lisa MacLean, a consultant for the Moon campaign. “First, she’s acknowledging and owning the contradiction. Second, she’s making specific commitments to share power … Third, she’s asking for ongoing evaluation of both her words and actions.” On her website, Moon has promised that at least half of her leadership team will comprise women, LGBTQ people, and people of color, and MacLean says she is “asking for community input” on what other specific power-sharing commitments to make.
It’s not just on the ballot that Moon needs supporters. She’s also gearing up a “really big ground game,” she says, in contrast to the primary, where Durkan-dominated precincts covered most of the city. “We’ve seen an outpouring of already hundreds of people contacting us,” she says, “offering support, ideas, to volunteer, to contribute whatever they can, because people are really motivated to be part of this and to help me win. We’re developing a much more high-touch, grassroots ground game than we had before.” Moon says her campaign will try to develop support and buzz via social networks and word of mouth, and will also concentrate on “high-quality media.”
“I don’t have any savior complex,” says Moon. “I don’t think I have all the answers, but I want to contribute what I have, which is an understanding of how this city works. I have a very strong ability to develop solutions, and I have a commitment to collaborative, inclusive leadership.”
Seattleites “see that we’re headed for a cliff,” says Moon. “We’ve already pushed out a lot of people, due to displacement from unaffordable housing and people not being able to access the good jobs, so people are really determined to solve this problem and get on a different track. That’s what’s fueling my determination. Because we need to change. If we’re going to keep this city for us, we have to make a lot of big changes.”