Seattle mayor Ed Murray's announcement that would "shake up the race" on Thursday was less of a shakeup, more of a quiver.
Murray won't seek re-election with a write-in campaign, he told reporters, but instead is putting his supporters' weight behind mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. attorney Murray worked with on police reform and LGBTQ initiatives in the early 1990s. She has the experience, temperament, and political skills "to move this city forward," Murray said. But most importantly, Murray seemed to suggest, she can win against Mike McGinn.
Durkan was already considered to be the frontrunner in the 21-candidate mayor's race, and two polls released earlier this month showed she was likely to make it through the primary. Murray said he received polling results on Monday, which showed he was among the top-three candidates if he were to run. But, he said, "as with most write-in campaigns, that pathway was narrow and uncertain."
Neither Murray nor his spokesperson, Jeff Reading, would comment on who the third candidate was or what the questions looked like. And Murray never mentioned McGinn by name. But when asked whether Murray considered the race against McGinn in his endorsement, he rattled off a list of problems he inherited when he took office—the human services department had been through four directors in four years and had "numerous audits"; and the police department was dysfunctional while the mayor "was fighting with the federal court" on police reform.
"In my conversations with Jenny I really believe, number one, that she has the best chance of winning, and I really do not want to see this city go back to the divisiveness that I inherited," Murray said, in response to a question about why he chose not to endorse former state legislator Jessyn Farrell. He used the same rhetoric of "divisiveness" in his campaign against McGinn back in 2013. Murray went on to say his predecessor had been unwilling to work with him when he took office, and that he doesn't want to return to the politics he faced four years earlier.
Write-in campaigns are challenging, said Marco Lowe—a Seattle University politics professor and former McGinn staffer—and Murray's poll could've suggested he might not fare as well as Durkan in the general election.
Since Murray's accuser Delvonn Heckard dropped the lawsuit alleging the mayor sexually abused him in Heckard's teens (though he stands by his claims), Murray's been considering seeking a write-in campaign. Murray said he also factored in "huge legal bills" from the fight and said he couldn't contribute to them if he continued to work as mayor; the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission in May said Murray couldn't accept a legal defense fund, a decision he called "reprehensible" and a disincentive for minorities and lower-income people to run for elected office.
When asked whether Durkan was weary of Murray's endorsement given the lawsuit, Durkan said she believes voters are "very discerning" and will choose the best mayor for the city, and that there's a system of due process.
"I have both represented people who are victims of sexual violence, (and) I've also represented people who were wrongly accused," Durkan said. "Going forward, I will say that the question now is, what kind of mayor has Ed Murray been? I think he's been a very good mayor."