Mayoral candidates hoping to breathe a sigh of relief at Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that he will not run a write-in campaign were likely disappointed this morning—unless their name happened to be Jenny Durkan. Polling strongly suggests that Murray’s decision to stay out of the race and endorse Durkan will be a boon to the former federal prosecutor, who is already seen as the runaway frontrunner in the 21-person mayoral primary. Two polls last week suggested that Murray still enjoys strong public support despite allegations of sexual abuse, including a lawsuit that has since been dropped. However—as Murray acknowledged today—a write-in campaign is “complicated,” and polls showing support for the mayor don’t necessarily translate into write-in votes. What they do translate into is a powerful endorsement.
If he doesn’t, the poll results could suggest something else—that Murray’s endorsement could provide a real boost to one of the frontrunners. … Murray’s endorsement could help push [Durkan] from frontrunner to inevitable status, and his endorsement for another candidate (say, Jessyn Farrell, who worked with Murray briefly in Olympia, where they were both state legislators) could shake up the race.
“While the poll showed a pathway forward if I were to get into the race, as with most write-in campaigns, that path was narrow and uncertain,” Murray said. Citing his work with Durkan going back to the “dark days” of the early 1990s, when anti-LGBTQ activists were fighting against anti-discrimination laws, Murray said Durkan “has the experience, the temperament, the political skills, and the strong relationships regionally and nationally to move this city forward in a very uncertain time.” Then he asked his supporters to “rally around” Durkan.
Murray said the lawsuit, which accuser Delvonn Heckard has said he may revive at some point in the future, was a factor in his decision not to run, as was a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission ruling that he couldn’t seek contributions to help defray his legal costs. “It’s really reprehensible and goes against our race and social justice initiatives in the city, because it’s a disincentive for folks who come from lower economic backgrounds and minorities to run,” Murray said. “People get charged with or accused of things all the time. I personally had to look at the fact that I have huge legal bills that my husband has had to take on the burden of, and if I became mayor again I wasn’t going to be able to pay those off.”
Jessyn Farrell, a former state legislator who worked briefly with Murray in Olympia, had been seeking his endorsement. Asked why he had decided to support Durkan instead, Murray said, “It wasn’t a matter of not endorsing Jessyn. It was more a matter of that, in my conversation with Jenny, she had the best chance of winning.”
Murray wouldn’t say which candidate, besides himself and Durkan, ranked in the top three candidates in his poll. But he did throw some shade at one contender—Mike McGinn, the former mayor he defeated in 2013: “The transition I had was that my predecessor was unwilling to meet with me and we inherited an office with basically no paper,” Murray said. “I want to actually have a transition that represents what is best for our city. I don’t want to go back to the politics I faced in 2013 about who is politically correct, who is left enough. That is only divisive.”
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