It Took Nearly a Century, But Seattle Found Its Second Female Mayor

Jenny Durkan emerged from a slew of candidates to take Seattle's top job.
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For all our self-congratulatory posing as a forward-thinking metropolis, Seattle seldom has strayed from (white) males when it comes to who runs this city.

The lone female exception was a corruption- and bootleg-busting firebrand, Bertha Landes (1926–28). Landes was ousted by voters on her next ballot try, but Seattle retains the plaudit for being one of the country’s first major cities to elect a female mayor. 

Nearly one hundred years later: Incumbent Mayor Ed Murray, once considered a lock for reelection, is forced to bow out over a sex-abuse scandal (and, in September, resigned from office in disgrace), encouraging a stampede of 21 candidates into the mayoral primary, including a rerun by former Mayor Mike McGinn.

Of this herd, only four were women, but three emerged as the main primary contenders: Democrat Jenny Durkan, former U.S. attorney general, liked by establishment types; Democrat Cary Moon, urban planner, largely self-funded, liked by urban-planner types; and—whee!—independent Nikkita Oliver, lawyer, artist, educator (don’t limit her to her activism, thank you!), liked by activist, hipster types. Oliver was a formidable, feisty debater (some might say the only real debater), and Moon just barely bested her to meet Durkan in November’s general election, though Durkan ultimately emerged victorious.

So, congrats to Mayor Durkan! Here’s hoping your tenure gives no cause for another near century-long gender gap.

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