Jenny the juggernaut 2: the general election

Jenny Durkan election night

Durkan dominated all electioneering aspects of the mayoral race. (Photo: Durkan campaign)

Seattle’s establishment candidate Durkan wins mayor’s race

By George Howland Jr

On election night, former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan ran up a huge lead, 61-39 percent, over urbanist Cary Moon. While Moon refused to concede, the numbers are daunting (for more on the math, see below). Minutes after the first batch of votes were counted, The Seattle Times had declared Durkan the winner.

All in all, it was a very good evening for the Seattle political establishment.

The mayoral contest was never much of a horse race.

Durkan had a fantastic showing in August’s primary election, getting 29 percent of the vote in a 21-person race and besting Moon by 12 points.

Durkan was a candidate made for Seattle voters. Durkan has had a long and storied career as a lawyer in the state Democratic Party, working for former Gov. Mike Lowry and defending former Gov. Christine Gregoire’s razor-thin victory in court. Not only did Durkan serve former President Barak Obama as a U.S. Attorney, she was also the first openly LGBTQ U.S. Attorney in our nation’s history. Before Durkan became U.S. Attorney, she worked hard on police reform at a local level. Once she became U.S. Attorney, she dragged former Mayor Mike McGinn into a consent decree that mandated changes for the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and biased policing.

Durkan is a mainstream Seattle liberal who was supported by the city’s ruling coalition of business, labor and big Democrats. Clearly the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce was nervous about this mayoral election. The Chamber poured $500,000 into advertising backing Durkan—led by donations from Amazon, Paul Allen’s Vulcan and Comcast. Labor unions added in over $100,000 more. Durkan received endorsements from big Democrats, who usually sit out Seattle mayoral contests, including U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and many more.

As if all this weren’t enough, Durkan also outraised Moon $937,000 to $347,000.

Durkan plans to follow Murray’s policy playbook

All indications are that Durkan will be a highly competent mayor. She has brains, charisma, charm, ambition and leadership ability. Since she plans to mostly follow former Mayor Ed Murray’s policy playbook, she won’t have to try to force the city’s departments to radically change course. She has pledged to continue Murray’s cruel, useless policy of sweeping homeless camps. She plans to plow forward with Pathways Home, a homelessness program that relies on the dubious rapid rehousing strategy of using short-term housing vouchers to help people on the street find apartments. Durkan has also pledged fealty to the Mandatory Housing Affordability program that gives developers huge upzones and asks them for small fees for affordable housing in return.

Durkan has also proposed some good new things: 700 more homeless shelter beds, 1,000 more tiny homes for the homeless and 2 years of free community or technical college tuition for Seattle public-school graduates.

None of this will solve Seattle’s homeless crisis, the continuing displacement of poor people and communities of color, and the city’s growing gap between rich and poor. It is, however, better than nothing.

The math favors Durkan

Now to the math. Before election night, University of Washington Professor John D. Wilkerson, a political scientist, provided Outside City Hall with a link to a calculator that generates confidence intervals—a kind of calculation that shows how probable it is that a random sample represents the whole. In the case of this election, the confidence interval calculates the probability that the election night totals will be reflected in the final vote count.

(Professor Wilkerson did not do the calculations, Outside City Hall did. Any mistakes are ours not his.)

On election night, Durkan won 64,174 votes out of 105,857 ballots cast or 61 percent. No one expects her to keep this kind of lead. As The Seattle Times has shown, in past elections, the first ballots are from older voters—who tend to be more conservative than Seattle’s voters as a whole. It seems highly likely that Moon will pick up votes as the counting continues.

But how many? The Moon campaign points out that in 2013 former Mayor Mike McGinn gained ten percentage points from election night to the final vote count (he still lost to Ed Murray). Let’s be generous and say Moon can gain ten percent.

To do the calculation we reduce Durkan’s election night total by ten percent to 53,598. Professor Wilkerson recommends a confidence level of 99 percent. Under these conditions, the confidence interval for a Durkan victory is still 50.2 percent to 51 percent.

In other words, even allowing for future results that favor Moon by ten percent, it’s probable that Durkan still wins.

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Award winning journalist George Howland Jr has been hired by Seattle Displacement Coalition to write for Outside City Hall about city politics, housing, homelessness and land use. He works under his own editorial direction. The Displacement Coalition plays no role in choosing his specific subjects or editing his copy. He has never even been to a Huskies’ football game with the Coalition’s John Fox.


About George Howland Jr

Since 1977, George Howland Jr. has lived in Seattle and written reportage, opinion pieces, memoirs, fiction and book and music reviews. He has worked at Real Change, Seattle Weekly and The Stranger.
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