Mayor Ed Murray, who promised to announce whether he was going to run for re-election as a write-in candidate this week, called a press conference Thursday promising a “major announcement” to “shake up the race for Seattle mayor.”
Did that mean he was jumping in as a write-in? No. It meant he was endorsing Jenny Durkan, the former U.S. attorney and top fundraiser so far in the crowded race for mayor.
Murray’s possible write-in campaign notwithstanding, the endorsement was hardly surprising. When Durkan announced she was running for mayor, her speech clearly indicated her desire to build on Murray’s legacy as mayor, not reverse it. Since then, she’s picked up many of Murray’s donors and has firmly assumed the “establishment” pedestal in the mayor’s race.
In that vein, Durkan and Murray stood together at a podium in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre Thursday morning to exchange platitudes about each other’s leadership and advocate for their vision of what could be called conciliatory progressivism in Seattle.
Progressive policy can only happen “if we can bring people together,” Durkan said. Said Murray: “Democracy does not work without compromise and collaboration.” Murray criticized other Seattle politicians for exploiting “the usual Seattle political fault lines … left vs. left vs. left.” As he’s done often in recent weeks, he recounted his litany of accomplishments—the higher minimum wage, police reform, HALA—to argue that he’s not the weak progressive his opponents cast him as, but someone who can broker good deals.
Present throughout the press conference, in spirit if not in person, was former Mayor Mike McGinn, whom Murray argued would be a disaster for the city if elected again (without actually naming him). There may be good reason for Murray to worry about his old foe’s political fortunes.
On Monday, Murray got polling figures back about his prospective write-in campaign. He said he was in the top-3 in those polls and that Durkan was also up there. He refused to say who the third candidate was, but his continued focus on the troubles of the first McGinn administration strongly suggested that the former mayor is very much in the mix (other polls have said as much).
Durkan, he said, will avoid the “paralysis and divisiveness we’ve seen in the recent past,” Murray said.
It seemed at times that Murray’s endorsement was more about blocking McGinn’s path to victory than opening up Durkan’s. Asked whether he had considered endorsing Jessyn Farrell, Murray said he respected Farrell but that “in my conversation with Jenny, she has the best chance of winning, and I really don’t want this city to go back to the divisiveness that I inherited.” In other words, Durkan had the best chance at wiping the floor with McGinn on the ballot.
Asked whether that meant the endorsement was more anti-McGinn than pro-Durkan, Murray shot back: “No, it’s pro-Jenny Durkan,” before launching into a renewed broadside against McGinn’s tenure as mayor (again, without naming the candidate).
“I inherited a Human Services Department that had had four human services directors in four years. Had numerous audits and was as dysfunctional as the police department I inherited. I inherited a police department where the mayor was fighting with the federal court and Barack Obama’s justice department on police reform. I inherited a city that was fighting with the region and the state. I don’t think we want to go back to that,” he said.
We have a note out to McGinn’s campaign manager for comment.
Murray said the polling did not rule out his chances at winning with a write-in campaign, but that it would be “complicated.” He also said that polling was not the only consideration, and that his inability to raise money for a legal defense fund while mayor has complicated his financial considerations.
If Durkan had any misgivings about the Murray endorsement, she didn’t let on. While Murray stands accused by several men of abusing them as teenagers in the ’80s (accusations he vigorously denies), Durkan’s willingness to stand with him before reporters indicates that she doesn’t think the mayor is toxic. Durkan said that the accusations are best vetted in a court of law, and pointed to the fact that the lawsuit against Murray has been dropped as a suggestion that voters are ready to move on.